Are global warming and ocean acidification conspiring against marine ectotherms? A meta-analysis of the respiratory effects of elevated temperature, high CO2 and their interaction

With the occurrence of global change, research aimed at estimating the performance of marine ectotherms in a warmer and acidified future has intensified. The concept of oxygen- and capacity-limited thermal tolerance, which is inspired by the Fry paradigm of a bell-shaped increase–optimum–decrease-type response of aerobic scope to increasing temperature, but also includes proposed negative and synergistic effects of elevated CO2 levels, has been suggested as a unifying framework. The objectives of this meta-analysis were to assess the following: (i) the generality of a bell-shaped relationship between absolute aerobic scope (AAS) and temperature; (ii) to what extent elevated CO2 affects resting oxygen uptake MO2rest and AAS; and (iii) whether there is an interaction between elevated temperature and CO2. The behavioural effects of CO2 are also briefly discussed. In 31 out of 73 data sets (both acutely exposed and acclimated), AAS increased and remained above 90% of the maximum, whereas a clear thermal optimum was observed in the remaining 42 data sets. Carbon dioxide caused a significant rise in MO2rest in only 18 out of 125 data sets, and a decrease in 25, whereas it caused a decrease in AAS in four out of 18 data sets and an increase in two. The analysis did not reveal clear evidence for an overall correlation with temperature, CO2 regime or duration of CO2 treatment. When CO2 had an effect, additive rather than synergistic interactions with temperature were most common and, interestingly, they even interacted antagonistically on MO2rest and AAS. The behavioural effects of CO2 could complicate experimental determination of respiratory performance. Overall, this meta-analysis reveals heterogeneity in the responses to elevated temperature and CO2 that is not in accordance with the idea of a single unifying principle and which cannot be ignored in attempts to model and predict the impacts of global warming and ocean acidification on marine ectotherms.

Lefevre S., 2016. Are global warming and ocean acidification conspiring against marine ectotherms? A meta-analysis of the respiratory effects of elevated temperature, high CO2 and their interaction. Conservation Physiology 4(1):cow009. Article.

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