Reviews and syntheses: The clam before the storm - a meta-analysis showing the effect of combined climate change stressors on bivalves

Rachel A Kruft Welton, George Hoppit*, Daniela N Schmidt, James D Witts, Benjamin C Moon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature review (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The impacts of climate change on marine organisms have been increasingly documented in laboratory and experimental studies. However, the use of different taxonomic groupings and the assessment of a range of processes make identifying overall trends challenging. Meta-analysis has been used to determine general trends, but coarse taxonomic granularity may mask phylogenetically specific responses. Bivalve molluscs are a data-rich clade of ecologically and economically important calcifying marine taxa that allow for the assessment of species-specific vulnerability across developmental stages. Drawing on the large body of available literature, we conduct a meta-analysis of 203 unique experimental set-ups in order to examine how bivalve growth responds to increased water temperature, acidity, deoxygenation, and changes in salinity in 10 climate change stressor combinations. This is the most complete examination of bivalve responses to date and shows that anthropogenic climate change will disproportionally affect particular families, suggesting taxonomic differentiation in climate change response. Specifically, Mytilidae, Ostreidae, and Pectinidae (67 % of experiments) respond with negative effect sizes for all individual stressors, whereas responses in Pinnidae, Tellinidae, and Veneridae are more complex. Our analysis shows that earlier studies reporting negative impacts on bivalves are driven by only three or four well-studied, commercially important families. Despite the taxonomic differentiation, almost all drivers and their combinations have significant negative effects on growth. The synergistic impacts of deoxygenation, acidification, and temperature result in the largest negative effect size. Infaunal taxa, including Tellinidae and Veneridae, appear more resistant to warming and oxygen reduction than epifaunal or motile taxa, but this difference between the two taxa is also based on a small number of data points. The current focus of experimental set-ups on commercially important taxa and families within a small geographic range creates gaps in the understanding of global impacts on these economically important foundation organisms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-239
Number of pages17
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2024

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