Larval Lobster Response to OA (regional)

Primary tabs

Genetic and phenotypic response of larval American lobster to ocean warming and acidification across New England's steep thermal gradient

Richard Wahle, School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine (207-563-8297); David Fields, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences (207-315-2567); and Spencer Greenwood, Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island (902-566-6002)

The input of human-caused carbon into the atmosphere has caused large scale ocean warming and acidification that has important implications for commercial fisheries in the Northeastern United States. The Northwest Atlantic is experiencing more rapid increases in temperature and acidification than other parts of the world. Consequently, over recent decades the fishing industry has witnessed traditional commercial fish populations receding from the south and expanding to the north. While most of these shifts have been attributed to ocean warming, the impact of acidification has only been examined in a few species and the interactive effects of warming and acidification remain poorly understood. In this study, the researchers focus on the interactive effects of ocean warming and acidification on the iconic American lobster (Homarus americanus), one of New England's most valuable fisheries. These data are critical for policy makers and harvesters to manage the future of this fishery. Stock assessment scientists and the fishing industry in the U.S. and Canada, the Northeast Coastal Acidification Network, as well as Maine's Ocean Acidification Commission, have all recognized the urgent need for the information this study will provide.

This project will provide unprecedented and much-sought information on the interactive effects of elevated temperature and pCO2 on the American lobster's most vulnerable early life stages. The study is designed to fill knowledge gaps in our understanding of the response of lobster larvae to ocean warming and acidification across lobster subpopulations occupying New England's steep north-south thermal gradient. The research involves a comprehensive assessment of the physiological and behavioral response of lobster larvae to climate model-projected end-century ocean temperature and acidification conditions. The researchers will address two primary objectives: determine whether projected end-century warming and acidification impact lobster larval survival, development, respiration rate, behavior and gene expression; and determine whether larvae from southern subpopulations are more resistant than larvae from northern populations to elevated temperature and pCO2.