Aquatic acidification: a mechanism underpinning maintained oxygen transport and performance in fish experiencing elevated carbon dioxide conditions

Aquatic acidification, caused by elevating levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), is increasing in both freshwater and marine ecosystems worldwide. However, few studies have examined how acidification will affect oxygen (O2 ) transport and, therefore, performance in fishes. Although data are generally lacking, the majority of fishes investigated in this meta-analysis exhibited no effect of elevated CO2 at the level of O2 uptake, suggesting that they are able to maintain metabolic performance during a period of acidosis. Notably, the mechanisms that fish employ to maintain performance and O2 uptake have yet to be verified. Here, we summarize current data related to one recently proposed mechanism underpinning the maintenance of O2 uptake during exposure to aquatic acidification, and reveal knowledge gaps that could be targeted for future research. Most studies have examined O2 uptake rates while fishes were resting and did not calculate aerobic scope, even though aerobic scope can aid in predicting changes to whole-animal metabolic performance. Furthermore, research is lacking on different age classes, freshwater species and elasmobranchs, all of which might be impacted by future acidification conditions. Finally, this Review further seeks to emphasize the importance of developing collaborative efforts between molecular, physiological and ecological approaches in order to provide more comprehensive predictions as to how future fish populations will be affected by climate change.

Hannan, K. D. & Rummer J. L., 2018. Aquatic acidification: a mechanism underpinning maintained oxygen transport and performance in fish experiencing elevated carbon dioxide conditions. Journal of Experimental Biology 221: jeb154559. doi:10.1242/jeb.154559. Article (subscription required).

 

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