The importance of monitoring local ocean acidification and the eco-physiological and behavioural responses of species in an era of global change

Carla Edworthy1,2, NC James1, WM Potts2, S Dupont3

1South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, Grahamstown, South Africa, 2Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa, 3The University of Gothenburg, , Sweden


Marine environments are faced with a host of climate related changes, particularly in coastal areas where high environmental variability may amplify these impacts. Climate change, particularly changes in temperature, is predicted to drive species ranges towards the poles. Physiology and behaviour strongly influences habitat selection and geographic distribution and as such, the eco-physiological impacts on marine organisms associated with changing sea temperatures are well studied. However, fewer studies have considered that ocean acidification, which is also a product of global change and increasing atmospheric CO2, may be displacing marine organisms from their optimal habitats as a result of physiological constraints and behavioural disturbances. This study aims to understand the combined physiological and behavioural response of two coastal fish species to changes in the carbonate and pH chemistry of their juvenile habitats. This was achieved by first monitoring local conditions by means of a monthly monitoring program to describe the current carbonate chemistry as well as associated physico-chemical parameters. These data were then used to infer treatment conditions relevant to the study area in order to experimentally test the physiological and behavioural response of these two species to potential future scenarios. This will give insight to the local variability of ocean acidification and associated parameters in the selected habitats of these fish species as well as give an idea of their response and ability to adapt to changes predicted for the future.


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