Effects of climate change on fish reproduction and early life history stages

Seasonal change in temperature has a profound effect on reproduction in fish. Increasing temperatures cue reproductive development in spring-spawning species, and falling temperatures stimulate reproduction in autumn-spawners. Elevated temperatures truncate spring spawning, and delay autumn spawning. Temperature increases will affect reproduction, but the nature of these effects will depend on the period and amplitude of the increase and range from phase-shifting of spawning to complete inhibition of reproduction. This latter effect will be most marked in species that are constrained in their capacity to shift geographic range. Studies from a range of taxa, habitats and temperature ranges all show inhibitory effects of elevated temperature albeit about different environmental set points. The effects are generated through the endocrine system, particularly through the inhibition of ovarian oestrogen production. Larval fishes are usually more sensitive than adults to environmental fluctuations, and might be especially vulnerable to climate change. In addition to direct effects on embryonic duration and egg survival, temperature also influences size at hatching, developmental rate, pelagic larval duration and survival. A companion effect of marine climate change is ocean acidification, which may pose a significant threat through its capacity to alter larval behaviour and impair sensory capabilities. This in turn impacts on population replenishment and connectivity patterns of marine fishes.

Pankhurst N. W., & Munday P. L., 2011. Effects of climate change on fish reproduction and early life history stages. Marine & Freshwater Research 62(9):1015-1026. Article (subscription required).

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