Impact of ocean warming and acidification on the behaviour of two co-occurring gadid species, Boreogadus saida and Gadus morhua, from Svalbard

Ocean acidification induces strong behavioural alterations in marine fish as a consequence of acid-base regulatory processes in response to increasing environmental CO2 partial pressure. While these changes have been investigated in tropical and temperate fish species, nothing is known about behavioural effects on polar species. In particular, fishes of the Arctic Ocean will experience much greater acidification and warming than temperate or tropical species. Also, possible interactions of ocean warming and acidification are still understudied. Here we analysed the combined effects of warming and acidification on behavioural patterns of 2 fish species co-occurring around Svalbard, viz. polar cod Boreogadus saida and Atlantic cod Gadus morhua. We found a significant temperature effect on the spontaneous activity of B. saida, but not of G. morhua. Environmental CO2 did not significantly influence activity of either species. In contrast, behavioural laterality of B. saida was affected by CO2 but not by temperature. Behavioural laterality of G. morhua was not affected by temperature or CO2; however, in this species, a possible temperature dependency of CO2 effects on relative laterality may have been missed due to sample size restrictions. This study indicates that fish in polar ecosystems may undergo some, albeit less intense, behavioural disturbances under ocean acidification and in combination with ocean warming than observed in tropical species. It further accentuates species-specific differences in vulnerability.

Schmidt M., Gerlach G., Leo E., Kunz K. L., Swoboda S., Pörtner H.-O., Bock C. & Storch D., 2017. Impact of ocean warming and acidification on the behaviour of two co-occurring gadid species, Boreogadus saida and Gadus morhua, from Svalbard. Marine Ecology Progress Series 571:183-191. Article (subscription required).

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