High CO₂ and marine animal behaviour: potential mechanisms and ecological consequences

Marine Pollution Bulletin
Mark BriffaPhilip L Munday


Exposure to pollution and environmental change can alter the behaviour of aquatic animals and here we review recent evidence that exposure to elevated CO₂ and reduced sea water pH alters the behaviour of tropical reef fish and hermit crabs. Three main routes through which behaviour might be altered are discussed; elevated metabolic load, 'info-disruption' and avoidance behaviour away from polluted locations. There is clear experimental evidence that exposure to high CO₂ disrupts the ability to find settlement sites and shelters, the ability to detect predators and the ability to detect prey and food. In marine vertebrates and marine crustaceans behavioural change appears to occur via info-disruption. In hermit crabs and other crustaceans impairment of performance capacities might also play a role. We discuss the implications for such behavioural changes in terms of potential impacts at the levels of population health and ecosystem services, and consider future directions for research.


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