The effects of ocean acidification and temperature on oysters and the potential of selective breeding to ameliorate climate change
Parker, L.M., Ross, P.M. and O’Connor, W.A., 2009. The effects of ocean acidification and temperature on oysters and the potential of selective breeding to ameliorate climate change. NZ Climate Change Conference, 3 September 2009, Royal Society of New Zealand, Wellington, New Zealand.
Climate change is predicted to have enormous impacts on aquaculture industries world wide. Research has shown that aquaculture species such as the Sydney rock oyster (SRO) and the Pacific oyster are vulnerable to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and temperature. Although, oyster industries internationally contribute billions of dollars in retail sales each year and employ thousands of people, to date, no studies have considered the impact of ocean acidification from rising CO2 or the potential of selective breeding to reduce the effects of climate change. This study used different populations of selectively bred SRO to determine whether oysters have the genetic capacity to resist ocean acidification and whether selective breeding can be used as a tool to reduce the effects of climate change.
Oyster spat from existing selectively bred fast growth and disease resistant oyster populations were reared at ambient (present concentration: 375 ppm) and elevated (1000 ppm) CO2 and compared to wild type oyster spat with no selection for growth or disease resistance. We found that the selectively bred oyster lines were resilient to the effects of climate change. Some selectively bred oysters lines had more than twice the amount of growth than non-selectively bred (wild type) oysters when exposed to elevated CO2. Furthermore, family lines derived from single pairs of oyster parents also differed in their resilience to elevated CO2. This research is the first to show that genetically acquired resistance can protect oysters from some of the impacts expected to arise from ocean acidification and may reduce the impacts of climate change. Genetic selection of populations of marine organisms via targeted breeding programs is an important option for “climate proofing” aquaculture industries before public policy initiatives lead to significant reductions in CO2 emissions.