Physiological Basis of Climate Change Impacts on North American Inland Fishes

Photo credit: Gretchen J. A. Hansen, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Photo credit: Gretchen J. A. Hansen, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Authors: James E. Whitney, Robert Al-Chokhachy, David B. Bunnell, Colleen A. Caldwell, Steven J. Cooke, Erika J. Eliason, Mark Rogers, Abigail J. Lynch, Craig P. Paukert

Global climate change is altering freshwater ecosystems and affecting fish populations and communities. Underpinning changes in fish distribution and assemblage-level responses to climate change are individual-level physiological constraints. In this review, we synthesize the mechanistic effects of climate change on neuroendocrine, cardiorespiratory, immune, osmoregulatory, and reproductive systems of freshwater and diadromous fishes. Observed climate change effects on physiological systems are varied and numerous, including exceedance of critical thermal tolerances, decreased cardiorespiratory performance, compromised immune function, and altered patterns of individual reproductive investment. However, effects vary widely among and within species because of species, population, and even sex-specific differences in sensitivity and resilience and because of habitat-specific variation in the magnitude of climate-related environmental change. Research on the interactive effects of climate change with other environmental stressors across a broader range of fish diversity is needed to further our understanding of climate change effects on fish physiology.

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