Can experimental studies on the behavioural impacts of ocean acidification be trusted? That question was raised in early 2020 when a high-profile paper failed to corroborate previously observed responses of coral reef fish to high CO2. New information on the methodologies used in the “replicated” studies now provides a plausible explanation: the experimental conditions were substantially different. High sensitivity to test conditions is characteristic of ocean acidification research; such response variability shows that effects are complex, interacting with many other factors. Open-minded assessment of all research results, both negative and positive, remains the best way to develop process-based understanding. As in other fields, replication studies in ocean acidification are most likely to contribute to scientific advancement when carried out in a spirit of collaboration rather than confrontation.
Williamson P., Pörtner H.-O., Widdicombe S. & Gattuso J.-P., 2021. Ideas and perspectives: When ocean acidification experiments are not the same, repeatability is not tested. Biogeosciences 18(5): 1787–1792. Article.