Climate change will make fish smaller, warns report

By RTCC Staff

Fish are set to be disproportionately affected by rising temperatures from climate change, warns research (Source: USFWS Pacific/Creative Commons)

Warming oceans as a result of climate change will cause fish to shrink, according to a new report.

The study, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, compared 169 terrestrial, freshwater and marine species, and found that while land-dwelling animals will also shrink, the change will disproportionately affect fish.

Aquatic animals could shrink 10 times more than those on land, according to researchers. The researchers warn this could have negative implications for aquatic food webs and the production of food from aquaculture.

Over 100 million tonnes of fish are eaten world-wide each year, and many communities, particularly in the developing world, depend on fish for their animal protein intake.

Over 50 million people are also directly dependant on fishing for their livelihoods.

“Given that fish and other aquatic organisms provide three billion people with at least 15% of their animal protein intake, our work highlights the importance of understanding how warming in the future will affect the ocean, lake and river dwelling species,” said Dr Jack Forster, lead author of the report.

The researchers said the difference between land and marine based animals, could be down to the lower oxygen availability in the water, compared to the air.

They said the warming temperatures would mean organisms needed more oxygen, but aquatic species will have a harder to satisfy the increased demand. Reducing the size at which they mature is one way to do this.

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