SBU Marine Science Researchers Release Study Suggesting Ocean Acidification May Directly Harm Fish
Publication appearing in the journal Nature Climate Change
Silverside embryos shortly before hatch. Photo by Hannes Baumann
STONY BROOK, NY, December 12, 2011 – Fossil fuel combustion, and with it the release of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2), is still growing globally.1 Beyond climate change, this is also causing the world’s “other CO2 problem,” ocean acidification, i.e., the formation of carbonic acid when CO2 from the atmosphere enters seawater. Studies have already demonstrated a multitude of negative effects of elevated CO2 conditions for many groups of marine organisms such as corals, plankton, shellfish and sea urchins. To date, scientists have assumed marine fish were immune to ocean acidification. However, in a new article published in the December 11, 2011, online edition of the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers from Stony Brook University demonstrate that “the fish are okay” belief ignores an important knowledge gap – the possible effects of CO2 during the early development of fish eggs and larvae. Co-authors of the study,Christopher Gobler and Hannes Baumann, are professors at the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (SoMAS), and a third author, Stephanie Talmage, is a recent doctoral graduate of that program. Together, they represent one of several international teams working to better understand the effects of CO2 on fish.
Their present study is the first to show that elevated CO2 levels significantly decreased survival and growth rates in eggs and larvae of a fish.2 The researchers reared newly fertilized eggs of a common estuarine fish, the inland silverside (Menidia beryllina), under different CO2 levels predicted for future oceans (current: ~400 ppm3, mid-century: ~600 ppm, end-of-century: ~1,000 ppm) and found that egg and larval stages of these fish were highly sensitive to CO2. On average, survival rates until one week post-hatch declined by over 70% under elevated (1,000 ppm) compared to …