Pink Salmon at Risk of Acidification in Oceans and Freshwater with CO2 Increases from Climate Change

First Posted: Jun 30, 2015 08:09 AM EDT

Pink salmon may be more affected by ocean acidification than other species. Researchers have found that salmon that being life in freshwater with high concentrations are carbon dioxide are smaller and may be less likely to survive.

"Most of the work on acidification has been in the ocean, yet 40 percent of all fish are freshwater," said Colin Brauner, one of the researchers, in a news release. "We need to think about how carbon dioxide is affecting freshwater species. We found that freshwater acidification affects pink salmon and may impact their ability to survive and ultimately return to their freshwater spawning grounds."

In this latest study, the scientists examined how baby salmon respond to fresh and ocean water with levels of carbon dioxide expected 100 years in the future. The researchers monitored the salmon for 10 weeks from before they hatched to after the time they would migrate to ocean water.

So what did they find? It turns out those dealing with higher acidification were smaller and their ability to smell the water was reduced. This is important for returning to their spawning ground at the end of their life cycle and for sensing danger and responding to it. Once the salmon reached the age when they would typically begin their seaward migration, researchers found they were less able to use oxygen to exercise, which is likely to hurt their ability to find food and migrate.

"The increase in carbon dioxide in water is actually quite small from a chemistry perspective so we didn't expect to see so many effects," said Michelle Ou, lead author of the new study. "The growth, physiology and behavior of these developing pink salmon are very much influenced by these small changes."

The findings reveal a bit more about this salmon species and shows that, in the future, these fish may be drastically impacted by acidification. Not only that, but the findings hint that other salmon species may also be in trouble.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

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