Too hot to handle: Impacts of climate change on mussels
Climate change is causing higher air and water temperatures along the east coast of the United States. These changes have shrunk the geographic region where blue mussels are able to survive, according to findings by University of South Carolina researchers published in the Journal of Biogeography. Mytilus edulis, or blue mussels, a popular seafood, used to live along the East Coast as far south as Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, but now exist only as far south as Lewes, Delaware, according to Sierra Jones, a PhD student in the Department of Biological Sciences at USC.
Most plants and animals have geographic ranges defined by northern and southern limits. In many cases, ranges are thought to be controlled by temperature, and if it becomes too hot, the limits will shift. However, linking changes in geographic range to changes in climate is difficult unless long-term records in distribution are compared to equally long-term records of weather.
Spanning over 300 miles of coastline, Jones and colleagues explored how survival of mussels changed across latitudes and decades with respect to temperature. As recently as sixty years ago, these mussels thrived as far south as North Carolina. Due to air and water temperature increases over the past sixty years, they no longer survive throughout the year south of Lewes, Delaware, and populations to the north now experience higher rates of mortality than in the past.
The findings are significant because they show that recent climate change is affecting the organisms along our coast. "These mussels are a very important part of the food chain, help clean the water, and are farmed commercially. If temperatures continue to increase, we can expect range changes of species like blue mussels to continue, and the health of our oceans is at risk," said Jones.
"Understanding the link between organism and environment is essential for making predictions of how future climate change will affect species and ecosystems," concluded Jones. "Where organisms might be in the future is crucial to planning for marine reserves and the future of the fishing and aquaculture industries."
- US and European energy supplies vulnerable to climate change - Nature Climate Change Mon, 4 Jun 2012, 12:34:44 EDT
- Climate change may boost Middle East rainfallWed, 13 Aug 2008, 9:42:36 EDT
- Dramatic climate change is unpredictableMon, 30 Aug 2010, 9:57:11 EDT
- The Prestige oil spill caused changes in the cell structure of musselsWed, 25 Mar 2009, 9:47:16 EDT
- Invasive mussels causing massive ecological changes in Great LakesWed, 13 Apr 2011, 17:36:34 EDT
Articles on the same topic
- New computer model advances climate change researchThu, 19 Aug 2010, 11:43:35 EDT
- New computer model advances climate change researchWed, 18 Aug 2010, 15:50:11 EDT
- Climate change affects geographical range of plantsMon, 16 Aug 2010, 9:29:33 EDT
- New computer model advances climate change researchfrom Science BlogThu, 19 Aug 2010, 13:35:18 EDT
- New computer model advances climate change researchfrom Science DailyWed, 18 Aug 2010, 22:14:24 EDT
- New computer model advances climate change researchfrom Science BlogWed, 18 Aug 2010, 17:42:20 EDT
- New Computer Model Advances Climate Change Researchfrom Newswise - ScinewsWed, 18 Aug 2010, 16:21:16 EDT
- New computer model advances climate change researchfrom PhysorgWed, 18 Aug 2010, 16:21:09 EDT
- New computer model advances climate change researchfrom Science CentricWed, 18 Aug 2010, 13:14:23 EDT
- Too hot to handle: Impacts of climate change on musselsfrom Science DailyMon, 16 Aug 2010, 13:35:18 EDT
- Climate change affects geographical range of plantsfrom PhysorgMon, 16 Aug 2010, 10:14:11 EDT
- Too hot to handle: Impacts of climate change on musselsfrom PhysorgMon, 16 Aug 2010, 10:14:09 EDT
- Climate change affects geographical range of plants, study findsfrom Science DailySun, 15 Aug 2010, 14:14:09 EDT
- Climate change affects geographical range of plantsfrom Science CentricSun, 15 Aug 2010, 9:07:10 EDT
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Learn more about
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- Allosaurus fed more like a falcon than a crocodile, new study finds
- Invasive crazy ants are displacing fire ants in areas throughout southeastern US
- Beautiful 'flowers' self-assemble in a beaker
- Scientific insurgents say 'Journal Impact Factors' distort science
- GPS solution provides 3-minute tsunami alerts