Climate change effects on fishes and fisheries: towards a cause-and-effect understanding

Authors

  • H. O. Pörtner,

    Corresponding author
    1. Integrative Ecophysiology, Alfred-Wegener-Institute, Am Handelshafen 12, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany
      Tel.: +49 47148311307; fax: +49 47148311149; email: Hans.Poertner@awi.de
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  • M. A. Peck

    1. Center for Marine and Climate Research, Institute for Hydrobiology and Fisheries Science, University of Hamburg, Olbersweg 24, 22767 Hamburg, Germany
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Tel.: +49 47148311307; fax: +49 47148311149; email: Hans.Poertner@awi.de

Abstract

Ongoing climate change is predicted to affect individual organisms during all life stages, thereby affecting populations of a species, communities and the functioning of ecosystems. These effects of climate change can be direct, through changing water temperatures and associated phenologies, the lengths and frequency of hypoxia events, through ongoing ocean acidification trends or through shifts in hydrodynamics and in sea level. In some cases, climate interactions with a species will also, or mostly, be indirect and mediated through direct effects on key prey species which change the composition and dynamic coupling of food webs. Thus, the implications of climate change for marine fish populations can be seen to result from phenomena at four interlinked levels of biological organization: (1) organismal-level physiological changes will occur in response to changing environmental variables such as temperature, dissolved oxygen and ocean carbon dioxide levels. An integrated view of relevant effects, adaptation processes and tolerance limits is provided by the concept of oxygen and capacity-limited thermal tolerance (OCLT). (2) Individual-level behavioural changes may occur such as the avoidance of unfavourable conditions and, if possible, movement into suitable areas. (3) Population-level changes may be observed via changes in the balance between rates of mortality, growth and reproduction. This includes changes in the retention or dispersion of early life stages by ocean currents, which lead to the establishment of new populations in new areas or abandonment of traditional habitats. (4) Ecosystem-level changes in productivity and food web interactions will result from differing physiological responses by organisms at different levels of the food web. The shifts in biogeography and warming-induced biodiversity will affect species productivity and may, thus, explain changes in fisheries economies. This paper tries to establish links between various levels of biological organization by means of addressing the effective physiological principles at the cellular, tissue and whole organism levels.

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