The nutritional qualities of shellfish could be significantly reduced by future ocean acidification and warming, a new study suggests.
Research has previously shown that climate change could threaten future production, safety and quality by negatively impacting the fitness of marine species.
Now scientists from the University of Plymouth, in a study published in Marine Environmental Research, have demonstrated the potential for negative nutritional effects within economically and commercially valuable species.
The research focussed on the Pacific oyster (Magallana gigas) and the native flat oyster (Ostrea edulis), with results showing that increased temperatures and CO2 levels could significantly reduce the former’s levels of proteins, lipids and carbohydrates.
With seafood being the source of more than 15 per cent of animal protein consumed globally, scientists say the aquaculture industry may wish to consider a shift in focus toward species that are most robust to climate change and less prone to deterioration in quality.
Dr Anaëlle Lemasson, a former PhD student at the University, led the research having previously shown that although the physiology of the Pacific oyster can be negatively impacted by future climate change, its taste might not be adversely affected. She said:
“Identifying changes in nutritional quality, as well as species most at risk, is crucial if societies are to secure food production. Our previous research had suggested there could be negative effects in the conditions predicted to occur in 2050 and 2100. However the fact that Pacific oysters, which currently accounts for around 90 per cent of UK oyster production, can be affected could be a cause for concern."