Ocean acidification (OA) has had significant negative effects on oyster populations on the west coast of North America over the past decade. Many studies have focused on the physiological challenges experienced by young oyster larvae in high pCO2/low pH seawater with reduced aragonite saturation state (Ωarag), which is characteristic of OA. Relatively few, by contrast, have evaluated these impacts upon fitness traits across multiple larval stages and between discrete oyster populations.
In this study, researchers conducted two replicated experiments, in 2015 and 2016, using larvae from naturalized ‘wild’ and selectively bred stocks of the Pacific oyster Crasso - strea gigas from the U.S. Pacific Northwest and reared them in ambient (~400 μatm) or high (~1600 μatm) pCO2 seawater from fertilization through final metamorphosis to juvenile ‘spat.’ In each year, high pCO2 seawater inhibited early larval development and affected the timing, but not the magnitude, of mortality during this stage. The effects of acidified seawater on metamorphosis of pediveligers to spat were variable between years, with no effect of seawater pCO2 in the first experiment but a ~42% reduction in spat in the second. Despite this variability, larvae from selectively bred oysters produced, on average, more (+ 55 and 37%) and larger (+ 5 and 23%) spat in ambient and high pCO2 seawater, respectively. These findings highlight the variable and stage-specific sensitivity of larval oysters to acidified seawater and the influence that genetic factors have in determining the larval performance of C. gigas exposed to high pCO2 seawater.