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Impact of environmental change on Norway lobster

Crustaceans are keystone species in coastal ecosystems and of major economic importance. EU-funded scientists investigated the effects of environmental change on the Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus), also known as the Dublin Bay prawn, scampi or langoustine.
Impact of environmental change on Norway lobster
The aim of the CRUCSCHANGE (The crustacean chemosensory system: consequences of climate and environmental change) project was to increase understanding of the combined impacts of climate change and pollutants on marine organisms. Particular focus was placed on the chemosensory system of ecologically and economically important crustaceans.

Researchers investigated the combined impacts of ocean acidification (OA) and metal pollution. These were of special concern since decreasing pH affects bioavailability and therefore the toxicity of metals in water. Although the study concentrated on the effect on odour detection and the ability to search for food, other effects on behaviour and ecophysiology were also investigated.

These effects included the organisms’ general activity level, avoidance behaviour, metabolism cardiac performance and metal uptake, as well as effects on immune-defence. This combination of behavioural studies and physiological techniques was used to identify interference with the chemosensory system of the N. norvegicus at all organisational levels from neuron to behaviour.

The combined effects of long-term exposure to OA and short-term additional stressors in the form of hypoxia and manganese (Mn) were investigated on different life stages of N. norvegicus. Results showed lobsters exposed to hypoxia had a lower ability to reduce the number of bacteria after infection, while those exposed to OA or Mn either showed no reduction or an increased number of bacteria.

In lobsters exposed to Mn or OA combined with either hypoxia or Mn, the number of haemocytes (blood cells involved in immune defence) was reduced by around 35 %. Although the reduction of bacteria in lobsters was affected by these stressors, the growth survival and haemolytic properties of theses bacteria remained unaffected. The conclusion was that this predicted stress scenario was beneficial to the pathogen when interacting with its host.

Severe behavioural and physiological effects were also found in N. norvegicus. For example, lobsters exposed to hypoxia in combination with OA lost their ability to locate food through its odour. In addition, the crustacean’s ability to actively sense and avoid acidified seawater ceased in OA-treatments combined with either hypoxia or Mn.

CRUCSCHANGE results have provided fresh knowledge on the impacts to be expected from near OA conditions. This will help to identify the risks and improve understanding and inform policymakers developing coastal management and mitigation strategies and legislation.

Related information


Nephrops norvegicus, CRUCSCHANGE, chemosensory, ocean acidification, hypoxia, manganese, bacteria, haemocytes
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