NORMANBY ISLAND, Papua New Guinea — Katharina Fabricius plunged from a dive boat into the Pacific Ocean of tomorrow.
She kicked through blue water until she spotted a ceramic tile attached to the bottom of a reef.
A year earlier, the ecologist from the Australian Institute of Marine Science had placed this small square near a fissure in the sea floor where gas bubbles up from the earth. She hoped the next generation of baby corals would settle on it and take root.
Fabricius yanked a knife from her ankle holster, unscrewed the plate and pulled it close. Even underwater the problem was clear. Tiles from healthy reefs nearby were covered with budding coral colonies in starbursts of red, yellow, pink and blue. This plate was coated with a filthy film of algae and fringed with hairy sprigs of seaweed.
Instead of a brilliant new coral reef, what sprouted here resembled a slimy lake bottom.
Isolating the cause was easy. Only one thing separated this spot from the lush tropical reefs a few hundred yards away.
NOAA scientists at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center are beginning to understand future impacts of ocean acidification on Puget Sound’s food web. Drs. Shallin Busch, Chris Harvey, and Paul McElhany applied ocean acidification scenarios to a food web model to explore how the estuary’s food web and its ecosystem services (i.e. fisheries yield and ecotourism) may change over the next fifty years
Following a recent Town Council appropriation, the town’s shellfish community has started what is being called a “historic” effort to address the rapid disappearance of soft-shell clams.
The effort is the first comprehensive, large-scale research project in Maine to study the most significant factors believed to be contributing to the decline of shellfish resources, said Brian Beal, a professor at the University of Maine at Machias and one of the scientists working on the project.
“To the best of my knowledge, I am not aware of any community that has raised this much money for a shellfish research project, ever,” he said. “(It) underscores the commitment by the town to this very important commercial resource that they co-manage with the state of Maine.”
It is the dawn of the super crab.
Crabs are bulking up on carbon pollution that pours out of power plants, factories and vehicles and settles in the oceans, turning the tough crustaceans into even more fearsome predators.
That presents a major problem for the Chesapeake Bay, where crabs eat oysters. In a life-isn’t-fair twist, the same carbon that crabs absorb to grow bigger stymies the development of oysters.
“Higher levels of carbon in the ocean are causing oysters to grow slower, and their predators — such as blue crabs — to grow faster,” Justin Baker Ries, a marine geologist at the University of North Carolina’s Aquarium Research Center, said in an recent interview.
OYSTER BAY, Wash. -- The tide rolls out on a chilly March evening, and the oystermen roll in, steel rakes in hand, hip boots crunching on the gravel beneath a starry, velvet sky.
As they prepare to harvest some of the sweetest shellfish on the planet, a danger lurks beyond the shore that will eventually threaten clams, mussels, everything with a shell or that eats something with a shell. The entire food chain could be affected. That means fish, fishermen and, perhaps, you.
"Ocean acidification," the shifting of the ocean's water toward the acidic side of its chemical balance, has been driven by climate change and has brought increasingly corrosive seawater to the surface along the West Coast and the inlets of Puget Sound, a center of the $111 million shellfish industry in the Pacific Northwest.