Climate change and the future for coral reef fishes: impacts and adaptation
Due to climate change sea surface temperature in the tropics is predicted to increase up to 3oC by 2100. Consequently, changes to the ocean’s temperature is likely to have significant effects on the reproductive capacity of fishes and the growth and survival of their offspring, with potentially serious consequences for the sustainability of fish populations. However, it is ultimately the potential for species to acclimate and adapt to climate change that will set the boundaries for future population characteristics. This study will be the first to investigate the effect of water temperature on coral reef fishes over ranges likely to be experienced by natural populations over the next 50-100 years and whether they can acclimatize or adapt to these changing environmental conditions.
Replicate lineages will be reared through successive generations at each of the three focal temperatures (current day, +1.5°C and +3.0°C) and the reproductive performance of adults and life history attributes of the offspring will be tested at current-day and elevated temperatures in each generation. Some reef fishes appear to have considerable potential for short-term acclimation to increased ocean temperature, but whether this will affect the fitness of their offspring and how quickly favourable traits will be transferred between generations is currently unknown.