Rising carbon dioxide levels in oceans adversely change the behavior of fish through generations, raising the possibility that marine species may never fully adapt to their changed environment, research has found.
The research was conducted by the ARC center of excellence for coral reef studies, based at James Cook University in Queensland. Professor Philip Munday, a co-author of the study, told Guardian Australia the research suggested fish would not be able to adapt to climate change in the short term.
“How quickly that adaptation will take, we don’t quite know,” he said. “But we do know that projected future CO2 levels will seriously affect the behavior of fish in ways that won’t be good for populations. It will take longer than a few generations for fish to genetically adapt and we don’t know if they can keep pace with the change.”
“If they can’t keep pace, it will have a significant effect on the population sustainability in some species of fish. We worked on reef fish, but there’s nothing to say that whole ranges of other species won’t be affected.”
“This is certainly a warning that there is no quick fix for fish. We need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and we need to do more to understand whether genetic adaptation can kick in over time.”