Their study published recently in Marine Environmental Research shows the potential for negative nutritional effects within economically and commercially valuable species.
Their research, focused on the Pacific oyster, found that increased temperatures and carbon dioxide levels could significantly reduce that oyster’s levels of proteins, lipids and carbohydrates. Given that seafood is the source of more than 15 percent of animal protein consumed globally, the aquaculture industry may want to consider a shift in focus toward species that are most robust to climate change and less prone to deterioration in quality, the study concludes.
Oysters used in the research project were subjected to six different sets of ocean conditions over a 12-week period, from current temperatures and carbon dioxide levels to increased measurements predicted for both the middle and end of the century.
Along with changes in nutrient levels, researchers observed changes in essential mineral composition, and noted that the enhanced accumulation of copper in Pacific oysters may be of future concern in terms of consumption safety.
According to Antony Knights, an associate professor in marine ecology at Plymouth, oysters have the potential to be a sustainable, low-cost alternative source of protein for humans at a time when climate change and the growing world population are placing arguably unsustainable demands on sources of animal protein. Former doctoral student Anaelle Lemasson, who led the study team, said that identifying changes in nutritional quality, as well as species most at risk, is crucial if societies are to secure food production.