Quahogs Thrive in Dead Zones

by Peter Lord
(Providence, RI)

Altieri’s latest research found a good side of dead zones — they are a boon for quahogs.

Few people can find much good to say about the so-called dead zones, the low oxygen conditions that develop in Narragansett Bay each summer. But a Brown University researcher has found one positive consequence: Rhode Island’s prized quahogs seem to thrive in dead zones.

Andrew H. Altieri, a postdoctoral researcher in the university’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology, made news two years ago when he published research showing that summer algae blooms triggered low oxygen conditions that killed an estimated 4.5 billion mussels in the Bay in the summer of 2001.

Heavy rains and hot weather that summer caused algae blooms that were more prolific than in summers past. The mussels, which had been so prevalent they could filter all the waters in the Bay in 20 days, lost 75 percent of their filtering capacity, Altieri reported in a paper published in the journal Ecology.

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