For many aquatic organisms, olfactory-mediated behaviour is essential to the maintenance of numerous fitness-enhancing activities, including foraging, reproduction and predator avoidance. Studies in both freshwater and marine ecosystems have demonstrated significant impacts of anthropogenic acidification on olfactory abilities of fish and macroinvertebrates, leading to impaired behavioural responses, with potentially far-reaching consequences to population dynamics and community structure. Whereas the ecological impacts of impaired olfactory-mediated behaviour may be similar between freshwater and marine ecosystems, the underlying mechanisms are quite distinct. In acidified freshwater, molecular change to chemical cues along with reduced olfaction sensitivity appear to be the primary causes of olfactory-mediated behavioural impairment. By contrast, experiments simulating future ocean acidification suggest that interference of high CO2 with brain neurotransmitter function is the primary cause for olfactory-mediated behavioural impairment in fish. Different physico-chemical characteristics between marine and freshwater systems are probably responsible for these distinct mechanisms of impairment, which, under globally rising CO2 levels, may lead to strikingly different consequences to olfaction. While fluctuations in pH may occur in both freshwater and marine ecosystems, marine habitat will remain alkaline despite future ocean acidification caused by globally rising CO2 levels. In this synthesis, we argue that ecosystem-specific mechanisms affecting olfaction need to be considered for effective management and conservation practices.
Leduc A. O. H. C., Munday P. L., Brown G. E. & Ferrari M. C. O., 2013. Effects of acidification on olfactory-mediated behaviour in freshwater and marine ecosystems: a synthesis. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 368(1627): 20120447. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2012.0447. Article (subscription required).