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The potential impacts of ocean acidification: scaling from physiology to fisheries


  • The potential impacts of ocean acidification on fisheries and higher trophic level ecology: scaling from physiology to ecology was written by Will J. F. Le Quesne and J. K. Pinnegar of CEFAS. It is published with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

  • Ghoti papers
    Ghoti aims to serve as a forum for stimulating and pertinent ideas. Ghoti publishes succinct commentary and opinion that addresses important areas in fish and fisheries science. Ghoti contributions will be innovative and have a perspective that may lead to fresh and productive insight of concepts, issues and research agendas. All Ghoti contributions will be selected by the editors and peer reviewed.
    Etymology of Ghoti
    George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), polymath, playwright, Nobel prize winner, and the most prolific letter writer in history, was an advocate of English spelling reform. He was reportedly fond of pointing out its absurdities by proving that ‘fish’ could be spelt ‘ghoti’. That is: ‘gh’ as in ‘rough’, ‘o’ as in ‘women’ and ‘ti’ as in palatial.

W J F Le Quesne, Lowestoft Laboratory, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Lowestoft NR33 0HT, UK
Tel: +44(0) 1502  52428 1
Fax: +44(0) 1502  51386 5


Views expressed on the potential impact of ocean acidification range from wholesale degradation of marine ecosystems through to no discernable impact with minimal consequences. Constraining this range of predictions is necessary for the development of informed policy and management. The direct biological impacts of acidification occur at the molecular and cellular level; however, it is the expression of these effects at the population and ecosystem level that is of societal concern. Here, we consider the potential impact of ocean acidification on fisheries with particular emphasis on approaches to scaling from physiological responses to population- and ecosystem-level processes. In some instances, impacts of ocean acidification may lead to changes in the relative species composition at a given trophic level without affecting the overall productivity, whilst in other instances, ocean acidification may lead to a reduction in productivity at a given tropic level. Because of the scale at which ecological processes operate, modelling studies are required. Here, ocean acidification is situated within ongoing research into the ecological dynamics of perturbed systems, for which many models have already been developed. Whilst few existing models currently explicitly represent physiological processes sensitive to ocean acidification, some examples of how ocean acidification effects may be emulated within existing models are discussed. Answering the question of how acidification may impact fisheries requires the integration of knowledge across disciplines; this contribution aims to facilitate the inclusion of higher trophic level ecology into this ongoing debate and discussion.