How Warming Seas May Impact Surf Smelt Survival in the North Pacific
Northwest CASC-supported researchers and coauthors explored the impacts of warming water and ocean acidification on the eggs and larvae of surf smelt, a small but vital coastal forage fish.
Surf smelt are small but important forage fish in the North Pacific Ocean ecosystem, supporting many predators and fisheries. Impacts on smelt population could be felt across this entire ecosystem, yet there is little information on how climate change and ongoing coastal development, which removes vegetation and shade from beaches were smelt eggs and larvae develop may affect these fish. In a recent article in PLOS One, Northwest CASC Research fellow Megan Russell and co-authors assessed the vulnerability of smelt eggs and larvae to warming water temperatures and acidification. The authors found that warming water caused the larvae to use their energy reserves and yolk faster and decreased their ability to swim. However, the team also found that higher acidity slowed metabolic rates in eggs, meaning they use up valuable energy reserves more slowly. This research can help resource managers better understand climate stressors possible effects on surf smelt abundance.
This work is supported by the Northwest CASC project, “Investigating the Effects of Elevated Seawater Temperature and Ocean Acidification on Surf Smelt Embryo and Larvae Energy Demands”.
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