Mussels Face Shrinking U.S. Habitats

COLUMBIA, S.C., Aug. 16 (UPI) — U.S. East Coast habitats of mussels, a popular seafood, are shrinking because of higher air and water temperatures from climate change, researchers say.

Blue mussels used to inhabit the East Coast as far south as Cape Hatteras, N.C., but now exist only as far south as Lewes, Del., an article in the Journal of Biogeography says.

The findings are considered significant in showing that recent climate change is affecting coastal organisms, researchers say.

“These mussels are a very important part of the food chain, help clean the water and are farmed commercially,” said Sierra Jones, a student in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina.

“If temperatures continue to increase, we can expect range changes of species like blue mussels to continue, and the health of our oceans is at risk.”

Temperature is believed to control the geographic ranges of many plants and animals, researchers say.

“Understanding the link between organism and environment is essential for making predictions of how future climate change will affect species and ecosystems,” Jones said.

“Where organisms might be in the future is crucial to planning for marine reserves and the future of the fishing and aquaculture industries,” she said.

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