Nina Bednarsek discussed the findings of her research team during a recent presentation at the annual Alaska Marine Science Symposium.
Due to their extreme sensitivity, these tiny ocean snails serve as a kind of canary in the coal mine, an excellent ocean acidification indicator, with the potential to provide insight into changes in the ecosystem integrity, which is essential to effective fisheries and marine resource management, she noted. Bednarsek and fellow researchers developed baseline information on several species – including species distribution and incidence of shell dissolution and their coupling with ocean acidification parameters –during several trips to the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and Beaufort Sea between 2014 and 2017. The results, she said, demonstrate the biological vulnerability to ocean acidification across different high latitudinal environments.
Bednarsek said the Beaufort Sea pteropods were the most affected, followed by those found in the western part of the Gulf of Alaska, while at least seasonally the Bering Sea pteropods have not yet shown signs of vulnerability.
Bednarsek said that ultimately the study would contribute to robust baseline data sets that will help to recognize potential refuges and habitats of concern, to identify priorities for future monitoring, and provide information to better manage ecosystems in the larger subarctic and Arctic ecosystems.