Adapt, move, or die: how will tropical coral reef fishes cope with ocean warming?

Habary, Adam, Johansen, Jacob L., Nay, Tiffany J., Steffensen, John F., and Rummer, Jodie L. (2017) Adapt, move, or die: how will tropical coral reef fishes cope with ocean warming? Global Change Biology, 23 (2). pp. 566-577.

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View at Publisher Website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.13488
 
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Abstract

Previous studies hailed thermal tolerance and the capacity for organisms to acclimate and adapt as the primary pathways for species survival under climate change. Here we challenge this theory. Over the past decade more than 365 tropical stenothermal fish species have been documented moving pole-ward, away from ocean warming hotspots where temperatures 2-3 °C above long-term annual means can compromise critical physiological processes. We examined the capacity of a model species - a thermally-sensitive coral reef fish, Chromis viridis (Pomacentridae) – to use preference behaviour to regulate its body temperature. Movement could potentially circumvent the physiological stress response associated with elevated temperatures and may be a strategy relied upon before genetic adaptation can be effectuated. Individuals were maintained at one of six temperatures (23, 25, 27, 29, 31 and 33 °C) for at least six weeks. We compared the relative importance of acclimation temperature to changes in upper critical thermal limits, aerobic metabolic scope, and thermal preference. While acclimation temperature positively affected the upper critical thermal limit, neither aerobic metabolic scope nor thermal preference exhibited such plasticity. Importantly, when given the choice to stay in a habitat reflecting their acclimation temperatures or relocate, fish acclimated to end-of-century predicted temperatures (i.e., 31 or 33 °C) preferentially sought out cooler temperatures, those equivalent to long-term summer averages in their natural habitats (~29 °C). This was also the temperature providing the greatest aerobic metabolic scope and body condition across all treatments. Consequently, acclimation can confer plasticity in some performance traits, but may be an unreliable indicator of the ultimate survival and distribution of mobile stenothermal species under global warming. Conversely, thermal preference can arise long before, and remain long after, the harmful effects of elevated ocean temperatures take hold and may be the primary driver of the escalating pole-ward migration of species.

Item ID: 45441
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2486
Keywords: acclimation, aerobic scope, behavioural thermoregulation, critical thermal limits, global warming, temperature preference
Funders: Generalmajor J.F. Classens, Frøken Ellen Backe og Margaret Munn Tovborg Jensen Fond, Familien Müller-Geils Legat
Date Deposited: 01 Sep 2016 00:46
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0699 Other Biological Sciences > 069902 Global Change Biology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960301 Climate Change Adaptation Measures @ 100%
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