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Mussels - to become poisonous - through climate change
07th July 2015 | The Telegraph (UK)
Rising sea temperatures could wipe moules marinere of the meny as deadly bacteria find a warm enough climate to thrive in shellfish.

 Mussels will become inedible within the next 100 years as rising sea temperatures turn the dinner table favourite poisonous to humans, scientists have found. A study has indicated that a change in temperature of just 2 degrees celsius could make mussels, oysters and other popular shellfish too poisonous for humans to eat. Climate change models predict that sea temperatures will rise significantly in the next century, causing massive disruption to marine habitats. In these areas, rainfall is also predicted to increase, reducing the salt concentration of the surface layer of the sea.  Researchers from Gothenburg University, Sweden said these changes would dramatically affect the microscopic communities of bacteria and plankton that inhabit the oceans, impacting species higher up the food chain. Future conditions are expected to favour disease-causing bacteria and plankton species which produce toxins, such as the lethal PST (paralytic shellfish toxin). These can accumulate in shellfish such as mussels and oysters, putting people who eat them at risk. Researchers recently investigated how climate change was likely to affect the fledgling Green Mussel industry in South West India. Working on the Mangalore coast, the scientists raised mussels under high temperature and low salt conditions while simultaneously exposing them to toxic plankton and bacteria species. Lead investigator Dr Lucy Turner said: "If the changes in the environment put the mussels' bodies under higher stress levels than usual, and we then challenge them with these micro-organisms, the immune system may become compromised."  The results showed that the combination of both a warmer temperature and reduced salinity had a significant effect on the health of the mussels. Dr Turner warned this could threaten the rapidly-growing tropical shellfish industry, already under pressure from India's increasingly urbanised population. She said: "The demand for marine products is growing at an unprecedented rate. "There is also a drive to move from small scale fishing methods to larger scale commercial operations. "We know that climate change is causing a change in the timing and duration of the monsoon which can significantly lower the seawater salinity. This is likely to increase the chance of outbreaks of toxic plankton blooms and make farming bivalves such as mussels increasingly challenging." She added: "The Indian government needs to be vigilant about monitoring coastal water quality, particularly as the shellfish industry continues to grow." Now the researchers plan to determine whether similar results are observed for oysters and clams, while a sister project is investigating how climate change may affect prawn farms.

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