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Climate Change Poses A Major Threat To The Nutritional Value Of Oysters
Dec 25, 2018

Acidification and warming of the oceans could significantly reduce the nutritional quality of shellfish in the future, a new study suggests.

Research shows that climate change may have a negative impact on the adaptability of Marine species, thus threatening future production, safety and quality.

Now, a study published by scientists at the university of Plymouth in Marine environmental research suggests that economically and commercially valuable species may have negative nutritional effects.

The results of a study of Pacific oysters (Magallana oysters) and local flat oysters (oyster eaters) showed that rising temperatures and CO2 levels could significantly reduce pre-protein, lipid and carbohydrate levels.

Seafood is the source of more than 15 percent of the world's animal protein consumption, and the aquaculture industry may want to shift its focus to species that are most resilient to climate change and do not easily degrade, scientists say.

Lead researcher Dr Anaelle elemasson, a former doctoral student at the university, has previously suggested that while the physiology of Pacific oysters may be negatively affected by future climate change, their taste may not be negatively affected.

"If society is to ensure food production, it is critical to identify changes in nutritional quality and the species at greatest risk," she said.Our previous research has shown that what is expected to happen in 2050 and 2100 could have a negative impact.But the fact that Pacific oysters, which currently account for about 90 per cent of UK oyster production, could be affected could be worrying."

The study was conducted by scientists associated with the university's center for Marine biology and ecology (MBERC) and the food, health and nutrition research group.

MBERC is one of the world's leading research centers for the study of the effects of various stress factors on Marine life and the environment. Undergraduate and graduate students often participate in this research.

Oysters were subjected to six different sets of ocean conditions over a 12-week period, from current temperature and CO2 levels to predictions for both intermediate and end-of-century increase measurements.

In addition to changes in nutritional levels, the researchers observed important changes in the composition of essential minerals, adding that increased copper in Pacific oysters could be a future concern for consumer safety.

Dr Victor Kuri, lecturer in food quality at the university, said: "shellfish are a promising and high nutritional substitute for fish and other animal products due to their low environmental impact, but their sustainability depends on their quality attributes, including palatability, nutrition and safety.This work confirms the need to understand the science behind the risks and mechanisms of shellfish production, which are needed to establish the appropriate resilience of harvesting and aquaculture."

Dr Antony Knights, associate professor of Marine ecology, added: "climate change and the growing global population are placing unsustainable demands on animal protein sources.The increase in obesity in several parts of the world led to increased public awareness of the need for a healthy and balanced diet.Oysters have the potential to become a sustainable, low-cost alternative source of protein for humans.In particular, our native flat oysters appear to be more resilient to future climate change scenarios than the Pacific Ocean was introduced.Oysters make them a good aquaculture option and support growing investment in the product in the UK."