The effects of climate change on the ecology of fishes

Ocean warming and acidification are set to reshuffle life on Earth and alter ecological processes that underpin the biodiversity, health, productivity, and resilience of ecosystems. Fishes contribute significantly to marine, estuarine, and freshwater species diversity and the functioning of marine ecosystems, and are not immune to climate change impacts. Whilst considerable effort has been placed on studying the effects of climate change on fishes, much emphasis has been placed on their (eco)physiology and at the organismal level. Fishes are affected by climate change through impacts at various levels of biological organisation and through a large variety of traits, making it difficult to make generalisations regarding fish responses to climate change. Here, we briefly review the current state of knowledge of climate change effects on fishes across a wide range of subfields of fish ecology and evaluate these effects at various scales of biological organisation (from genes to ecosystems). We argue that a more holistic synthesis of the various interconnected subfields of fish ecology and integration of responses at different levels of biological organisation are needed for a better understanding of how fishes and their populations and communities might respond or adapt to the multi-stressor effects of climate change. We postulate that studies using natural analogues of climate change, meta-analyses, advanced integrative modelling approaches, and lessons learned from past extreme climate events could help reveal some general patterns of climate change impacts on fishes that are valuable for management and conservation approaches. Whilst these might not reveal many of the underlying mechanisms responsible for observed biodiversity and community change, their insights are useful to help create better climate adaptation strategies for their preservation in a rapidly changing ocean.

Nagelkerken I., Allan B. J. M., Booth D. J., Donelson J. M., Edgar G. J., Ravasi T., Rummer J. L., Vergés A. & Mellinet C., 2023. The effects of climate change on the ecology of fishes. PLOS Climate 2(8): e0000258. doi: 10.1371/journal.pclm.0000258. Article.

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