A recent study by the IDEAL Center determined that both of these environmental phenomena negatively impact the shellfish commonly known “choritos” or “mejillones” (mussels).

Mytilus chilensis.

Mytilus chilensis is the scientific name of the Chilean mussel, or “chorito,” a species of great commercial importance for the country. A recent study involving researchers from the Center for the Dynamic Research of Marine Ecosystems of High Latitudes (IDEAL) and the Institute of Marine and Limnological Sciences (ICML) of the Austral University of Chile (UACh) determined that the linkage between the Red Tide and ocean acidification negatively impacts the status of this species.

According to figures from the Chilean National Fisheries Service (SERNAPESCA), during 2017, 28% of the total landings of seafood in Chile consist of shellfish, of which 98% (341 thousand tons) correspond to Mytilidae, mainly mussels.

The research, published in the scientific journal Science of the Total Environment, was led by Dr. Jorge Navarro, along with marine biologist Carla Mellado, a graduate student at the IDEAL Center.

In laboratory experiments, scientists subjected examples of this species simultaneously to two environmental phenomena: simulated ocean acidification, and the presence of algae that produce paralyzing toxins, caused by the dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella.

The results take on great relevance when considering that predictions of climate change indicate that the seas will continue to acidify, a situation that may exacerbate the toxicity threat from the dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella, especially when combined with the limitation of nutrients in the marine ecosystem. This climate change scenario threatens the national production of the shellfish Mytilus chilensis, which is one of Chile’s main exports.

The study showed that the combination of the two factors (paralytic toxin and acidification) can aggravate the threat posed by the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella, as it affect various physiological processes, such as diet, metabolism, and growth.

“These results suggest that in the face of long-term climate change scenarios, and depending on the adaptability of the mussels, a negative outcome could be seen both on the natural populations and on the commercial cultivation of this species,” Navarro explained.

This could negatively impact the exports of this resource to the main markets in countries such as Spain, the United States, France, Italy and Russia, with the similar harm to the socio-economic development of southern Chile.