Oysters and mussels under anthropogenic pressure: Does microplastic limit the tolerance to climate change of ecologically and economically important bivalves?

OMAP is funded within the “AWI Strategy Fund” (project duration 3 years)

Since the 1950’s the increasing production of plastics resulted in a progressive accumulation of plastic litter in the oceans with manifold consequences for marine life. Ingestion of microplastics (MP) is a cause for concern, notably for filter feeders as it leads to fatal injuries such as blockages of the digestive system but also inflammatory processes or reduction in reproduction rates. Because of their minute size, MP harbour the risk of entering marine food webs at lower trophic levels. Feeding experiments with mice showed altered metabolic and transcriptional responses pointing to profound effects of incorporated MP which highlights risks up to top predators, including humans. Studies investigating physiological impact of MP on bivalves ignored its potential risk under climate changec as MP may constrain animals’ thermal tolerance and increase susceptibility to warming. This gives weight to concerns that biological interactions which are poorly understood may play a critical role in setting physiological limits towards global warming and vice versa warming will boost uptake rates of MP in filter feeders. For ecological, economic and public health reasons there is urgent need to assess MP impact on key bivalves like oysters and blue mussels under predicted warming conditions.

Key deliverables of the project:

  1. Quantify natural MP uptake in the field of important bivalve species (Ostrea edulis, Crassostrea gigas and Mytilus edulis) under present and future climate.
  2. Evaluate the physiological impact of MP in the three species across levels of biological organisation from the genome to the organism under present and future climate.
  3. Explore ecological and economic consequences by identifying the species-specific vulnerability to MP and climate change