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Predicted impacts of climate warming on aerobic performance and upper thermal tolerance of six tropical freshwater fishes spanning three continents

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journal contribution
posted on 2018-10-01, 00:00 authored by Dominique Lapointe, Michael S Cooperman, Lauren J Chapman, Timothy ClarkTimothy Clark, Adalberto L Val, Marcio S Ferreira, John S Balirwa, Dismas Mbabazi, Matthew Mwanja, Limhong Chhom, Lee Hannah, Les Kaufman, Anthony P Farrell, Steven J Cooke
Equatorial fishes, and the critically important fisheries based on them, are thought to be at-risk from climate warming because the fishes have evolved in a relatively aseasonal environment and possess narrow thermal tolerance windows that are close to upper thermal limits. We assessed survival, growth, aerobic performance and critical thermal maxima (CTmax) following acute and 21 d exposures to temperatures up to 4°C higher than current maxima for six species of freshwater fishes indigenous to tropical countries and of importance for human consumption. All six species showed 1.3-1.7°C increases in CTmax with a 4°C rise in acclimation temperature, values which match up well with fishes from other climatic regions, and five species had survival >87% at all temperatures over the treatment period. Specific growth rates varied among and within each species in response to temperature treatments. For all species, the response of resting metabolic rate (RMR) was consistently more dynamic than for maximum metabolic rate, but in general both acute temperature exposure and thermal acclimation had only modest effects on aerobic scope (AS). However, RMR increased after warm acclimation in 5 of 6 species, suggesting incomplete metabolic compensation. Taken in total, our results show that each species had some ability to perform at temperatures up to 4°C above current maxima, yet also displayed certain areas of concern for their long-term welfare. We therefore suggest caution against the overly broad generalization that all tropical freshwater fish species will face severe challenges from warming temperatures in the coming decades and that future vulnerability assessments should integrate multiple performance metrics as opposed to relying on a single response metric. Given the societal significance of inland fisheries in many parts of the tropics, our results clearly demonstrate the need for more species-specific studies of adaptive capacity to climate change-related challenges.



Conservation physiology






1 - 19


Oxford Academic


Oxford, England





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

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2018, The Authors