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Kelp could help save Long Island's shellfish industry from ocean acidification, study finds

Wayne Perry

A Stony Brook University study found the seaweed kelp may help reduce the effects of ocean acidifications on Long Island. This could help the region’s shellfish industry rebound from massive die-offs in recent years.

Long Island is home to over 50 oyster farms. Christopher Gobbler, the marine biologist who led the study, said his findings could bring environmental and economic benefits to those businesses.

“We have the means for introducing kelp and having kelp be grown on these farms to fight ocean acidification, benefit those oysters, and improve the growth rate of those oysters, and therefore ultimately have an economic benefit as well,” said Gobbler, who is the endowed chair of coastal ecology and conservation in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University.

The kelp absorbs harmful carbon and nitrogen from seawater, which prevents acidification and the growth of harmful algal blooms, respectively. Carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere continue to rise, causing chemical reactions in oceans that lower pH and cause ocean acidification.

Mike Doall and oyster farmer Paul McCormick with kelp grown on the Great Gun oyster farm.
Chris Gobler
Stony Brook University
Mike Doall and oyster farmer Paul McCormick with kelp grown on the Great Gun oyster farm.

Gobbler's research, published in Frontiers in Marine Science, took place in Moriches Bay, New York.

“We went to an oyster farm,” Gobbler said. “We grew hundreds of feet of kelp and put out oysters within the kelp and further away. We looked at ocean acidification levels in the kelp and further away, and what we found is the oysters grown in the kelp had experienced seawater that had higher pH and grew five times faster than the oysters that were further away.”

Gobbler said ocean acidification is among the most serious threats to shellfish due to climate change.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.