Scientists released results of a study showing that larval Pacific cod response to elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) levels varies depending on its stage of development. In laboratory experiments, NOAA Fisheries scientists and partners specifically examined larval cod behavior, growth, and lipid composition (the fats needed for storing energy and building muscles). As excess CO2 from the atmosphere dissolves in the ocean, pH is lowered and the ocean increases in acidity, in a process called ocean acidification. Studies like this are important because most marine fish mortality occurs at the larval stage of development and the high-latitude oceans where Pacific cod and other important commercial fisheries occur are expected to be among the most vulnerable to ocean acidification.
“Changing environmental conditions can impact species in multiple ways and not all life stages may respond in the same way,” said Tom Hurst, NOAA Fisheries scientist and lead author of a new paper in Marine Environmental Research. “We wanted to explore this because it has implications for the sustainability of Pacific cod and other important fish stocks in Alaska.”
Hurst and a team of scientists from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center; and the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and the Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies at Oregon State University conducted two laboratory studies to evaluate larval fish sensitivity to elevated CO2.