Changes in fish communities due to benthic habitat shifts under ocean acidification conditions

Highlights

• Ocean acidification-mediated habitat shifts and decreased complexity affect associated fish communities.

• Altered fish traits and reduced diversity occurred under near-future ocean acidification levels.

• Ocean acidification may oppose the poleward-shift of tropical fish species under warming.

Abstract

Ocean acidification will likely change the structure and function of coastal marine ecosystems over coming decades. Volcanic carbon dioxide seeps generate dissolved CO2 and pH gradients that provide realistic insights into the direction and magnitude of these changes. Here, we used fish and benthic community surveys to assess the spatio-temporal dynamics of fish community properties off CO2 seeps in Japan. Adding to previous evidence from ocean acidification ecosystem studies conducted elsewhere, our findings documented shifts from calcified to non-calcified habitats with reduced benthic complexity. In addition, we found that such habitat transition led to decreased diversity of associated fish and to selection of those fish species better adapted to simplified ecosystems dominated by algae. Our data suggest that near-future projected ocean acidification levels will oppose the ongoing range expansion of coral reef-associated fish due to global warming.

Cattano C., Agostini S., Harvey B. P., Wada S., Quattrocchi F., Turco G., Inaba K., Hall-Spencer J. M. & Milazzo M., in press. Changes in fish communities due to benthic habitat shifts under ocean acidification conditions. Science of The Total Environment. Article (subscription required).

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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