Rising atmospheric concentrations of CO2 are predicted to decrease the pH of high-latitude oceans by 0.3–0.5 units by 2100. Because of their limited capacity for ion exchange, embryos and larvae of marine fishes are predicted to be more sensitive to elevated CO2 than juveniles and adults. Eggs and larvae of walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) were incubated across a broad range of CO2 levels (280–2100 µatm) to evaluate sensitivity in this critical resource species. Slightly elevated CO2 levels (∼450 µatm) resulted in earlier hatching times, but differences among egg batches were greater than those observed across CO2 treatments. Egg batches differed significantly in size-at-hatch metrics, but we observed no consistent effect of CO2 level. In three independent experiments, walleye pollock were reared at ambient and elevated CO2 levels through the early larval stage (to ∼30 days post-hatch). Across trials, there were only minor effects of CO2 level on size and growth rate, but fish in the ambient treatments tended to be slightly smaller than fish reared at elevated CO2 levels. These results suggest that growth potential of early life stages of walleye pollock is resilient with respect to the direct physiological effects of ocean acidification.
Hurst T. P., Fernandez E. R. & Mathis J. T., 2013. Effects of ocean acidification on hatch size and larval growth of walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma). ICES Journal of Marine Science 70: 812–822. Article (subscription required).