Climate change impact on lobster already visible

Warmer water temperatures and more acidic conditions seem to make lobster larvae grow more slowly, preliminary studies have found.

Lobsters struggle for breath in warming ocean

Lobster larvae have slower respiration rates in the warmer, more acidic waters expected from climate change. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Warmer water temperatures and more acidic conditions seem to make lobster larvae grow more slowly, preliminary studies have found.

A researcher at the University of Maine is collaborating with a professor at the University of Prince Edward Island on what impact climate change could have on lobster.

University of Maine graduate student Jessica Waller will be on P.E.I. in the fall to investigate how climate change may be affecting the genetics of lobster. (University of Maine)

University of Maine Masters student Jessica Waller is trying to figure out why the larvae are growing more slowly, by testing them in the water conditions expected 85 years from now due to climate change.

"I saw that they grew to the same size and length but had decreased measures of metabolism, specifically respiration rates," said Waller.

"This gives us a clue that the impacts of ocean acidification and ocean warming may be happening internally, affecting a lobster's ability to grow and breathe correctly."

This summer, Waller will test larvae's swimming speed and ability to catch prey, things she believes could be hindered by poor breathing.

Lobsters in the Gulf of Maine have already been observed to be migrating northward. The gulf is one of the fastest warming bodies of water on Earth, said Waller, with the temperature increasing at a rate of 0.2C per year since 1984.

While lobster populations can move north to colder waters, they cannot escape the acidification that is happening along the whole coast.

Waller will be on P.E.I. in the fall where she'll study possible genetic changes due to climate change, work she's doing with Spencer Greenwood of the Atlantic Veterinary College at UPEI.

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