Clam Rolls, Ocean Acidification — and Solutions

© Deborah Jones 2014

© Deborah Jones 2014

Oddly, the new column by Natural Security columnist Chris Wood brought to my mind a sign outside a university chemistry lab when, a lifetime ago, I was studying biology. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate,” it quipped. It’s a bit of goofy scientist humour — but reading Wood’s piece, I thought, he is part of the solution — because he clearly lays out the problems we face, and presents the solutions needed. The problems of preserving a livable earth are not trivial — but they are, in theory, solvable ones, argues Wood. An excerpt of his new column, Clam rolls:

 

© Bryan Bruchman

© Bryan Bruchman

Ever had a clam roll? I know, sounds like a straight line. But in the Canadian Maritimes a clam roll is a load of breaded, deep-fried clams in a hot-dog bun, usually with shredded lettuce and mayonnaise. Enjoy one, if you get the chance, because the lowly clam is the latest canary to show signs of expiring in our climate mine.

The excess carbon dioxide humanity is releasing into the atmosphere doesn’t all stay there. A great deal gets absorbed into the oceans, where it is making them observably more acidic. That is bad for all shellfish: acidy water corrodes their calcium carbonate shells (also a reason to enjoy oysters while you still can.) But biologists have now discovered that clams, which typically burrow into the mud at the bottom of the Bay of Fundy for protection from predators, are avoiding doing so — evidently sensing that the seafloor’s more acid condition will dissolve their shells. This dilemma — be eaten or dissolved by acid — helps explain a decline in clam populations.

At the other end of the scale, consider a document leaked from the United Nations’ Environment Program — the organization that produces those once-every-five-years global compendia of climate science — in the last few days. It confirms that the clams’ dilemma is being replicated around our planet, that we humans stand to lose much more than our regional cuisine, and that the singular reason for all of this is one we are well aware of: carbon. … log in first (subscription required*) and click here to read Clam Rolls.

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