Clamshells Face the Acid Test – Hakai Magazine

Clam Shells (by Lindsey B. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr).

As acidification threatens shellfish along North America’s Pacific Coast, Indigenous sea gardens offer solutions.   

It’s low tide in Bodega Bay, north of San Francisco, California, and Hannah Hensel is squishing through thick mud, on the hunt for clams. The hinged mollusks are everywhere, burrowed into the sediment, filtering seawater to feed on plankton. But Hensel isn’t looking for living bivalves—she’s searching the mudflat for the shells of dead clams.

“I did lose a boot or two,” she recalls. “You can get sunk into it pretty deep.”

Hensel, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Davis, is studying shells, which are composed of acid-buffering calcium carbonate, as a tool that could one day help shelled species survive in the world’s rapidly acidifying oceans.

The inspiration for Hensel’s research comes from Indigenous sea gardening practices. On beaches from Alaska to Washington State, First Nations and tribal communities built rock-walled terraces in the intertidal zone to bolster populations of shellfish and other invertebrates. Although these sea gardens have not been documented farther south, clams were also vital sustenance in central California. Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo people harvested clams for food and shaped shells into bead money, says Tsim Schneider, an archaeologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a member of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. “So taking care of your clam beds was actually kind of protecting your vault, your bank,” says Schneider…

In Alaska, a Mystery Over Disappearing Whales – Undark

Beluga or white whale, Delphinapterus leucas. courtship (by Brian Gratwicke CC BY 2.0 via Flickr).

In the 1980s, Kotzebue Sound’s beluga population began to dwindle…Although some stocks are healthy, beluga numbers have fallen off in around a half-dozen regions over the last 50 years…Now, even after hunting has ceased in some places, stresses such as climate change, increased ship traffic, and chemical pollutants are a gathering storm that threatens to finish the job…

New Research Shows People, Wildlife, and Marine Environment Benefit When Island-Ocean Connections are Restored – SCRIPPS

Floreana Island (by eatswords CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr).

“By applying this knowledge to islands worldwide, we can understand the marine benefits of island restoration projects and maximize returns for our conservation management investments for people, wildlife, and the planet,” said Stuart A. Sandin, PhD, lead co-author of the perspective and a marine ecologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego…

The Red Sea’s Coral Reefs Defy the Climate-Change Odds – New York Times

Temple, Red Sea (Andrew K CC BY-NC 2.0 via Flickr).

…(T)he wildly colorful coral reefs in the waters outside the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh, where the annual United Nations climate conference is taking place, are an anomaly: They can tolerate the heat, and perhaps even thrive in it, making them some of the only reefs in the world that have a chance of surviving climate change…