Researchers discover some fish species might actually benefit from climate change

A damselfish at the volcanic seep in New Zealand.

A damsel in distress? Maybe not.

Research on damselfish living in high CO2 conditions shows that some populations of fish species might actually benefit from climate change.

Marine ecologists and biologists in the Faculty of Sciences have learned that damselfish who ‘farm’ their own patches of seaweed, change their ‘cropping’ practices under high CO2 conditions.

Damselfish are known for their farming. They don’t just graze, they select a patch of algal turf to protect, weed out unwanted plants, defend the patch against intruders and fertilise their territory through defecation.

The Environment Institute’s Professor Ivan Nagelkerken said climate change and ocean acidification are forecast to decrease species diversity in our oceans.

“However, we discovered that some herbivorous fish species might actually increase in number by weeding their territories in such way that their food (turf algae) experiences faster growth rates,” he said.

Professor Sean Connell, from the University’s Southern Seas Ecology Laboratories, said, “this study shows that some populations of fish species might actually benefit from climate change”.

“Nevertheless, there are still strong predictions of declines in other species, likely leading to an overall decrease in species richness.”

The research was undertaken in undersea volcanic seeps in New Zealand by PhD student Camilo Ferreira. The study produced results that are unlikely to have been predicted in laboratory experiments.

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Tagged in Research, School of Biological Sciences, Environmental Science, Marine Biology, Environment Institute, Biological Science