Environment Institute

Baby fish will find it harder to reach secure shelters in future acidified oceans – putting fish populations at risk, new research from the University of Adelaide has concluded.

Published today in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, the researchers described how barramundi larvae in high CO2 conditions, predicted for the turn of the century, turn away from the ocean noises they would normally be attracted to. They are instead attracted to other sounds – noises produced by the wrong sort of habitats and or ‘white noise’.
“The oceans are far from silent environments; they harbor many noisy animals, for example snapping shrimps and whales and dolphins,” says project leader Professor Ivan Nagelkerken, from the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute.
“Oceanic larvae (hatchlings or baby fish) from quite a few species of fishes and invertebrates listen to sounds of coastal ecosystems. They use these sounds to guide them from the open ocean, where they hatch, to a sheltered home in shallow waters, where they can spend their juvenile and adult lives.
“Unfortunately the CO2 that humans are pumping into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels gets absorbed by the ocean and causes acidification, and this causes changes to the behaviour of many marine animals.”

The research, carried out by then PhD candidate Tullio Rossi, compared the activity of barramundi larvae in marine tanks with levels of CO2 that are predicted for the turn of the century against the responses of barramundi larvae in current day CO2 levels. “In our study we found that while larvae of barramundi are attracted to the sounds of tropical estuaries, larvae raised under future ocean conditions with elevated CO2 were deterred by these natural sounds,” says Professor Nagelkerken. “Moreover, under elevated CO2, larval barramundi were attracted to the wrong sounds.” The other sounds were noises found on cold water reefs (which are not the correct habitat for barramundi) and artificial sounds or ‘white noise’.
Professor Sean Connell, from the University’s Southern Seas Ecology Laboratories, says that if ocean acidification causes larvae to be deterred to the sounds of their habitats, and attracts them to irrelevant sounds, they could end up in the wrong habitat or in places where they cannot survive.
“Fewer larvae are arriving in coastal ecosystems, estuaries and rivers could result in smaller population sizes and, in the case of commercial species like barramundi, this could have a significant impact on fisheries, whether it be commercial or recreational,” Professor Connell says.

“The research also raises questions about future fish populations in areas with unnatural sounds. Will some species be more attracted, for example, to areas where there are a lot of human structures and sounds in and under the water, such as harbours and oil platforms, in the future?”


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Dr Nina Welti from CSIRO will be giving a Sprigg Geobiology Series seminar on “Ecological connectivity of the River Murray: How are riverine trophic pathways influenced by river management?” Where: , Mawson Lecture Theatre, Mawson Building, University of Adelaide. When: Friday 20th April, 3-4 pm Dr Welti is investigating what the influence of raising infrastructure assets on […]

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Dr Vicki Thomson‘s latest paper in Biology Letters has been featured in the Advertiser, Indaily, ABC News and Phys.org  and Science Newsline Biology The paper also featured Dr Kieran Mitchell, Associate Professor Jeremy Austin and Prof Alan Cooper was released yesterday with an accompanying media release. Read her full article in the Advertiser below:  

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The following piece has been reposted from Dr Vicki Thompson’s blog VickiThomson.com     “Have you ever wondered how animals evolve when they are on a permanent diet? Over long time frames? Well, looking at what happens on islands is a perfect way to find this out. In our recent study (‘Genetic diversity and drivers of […]

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Emus that lived isolated on Australia’s offshore islands until the 19th century, including Kangaroo Island, King Island and Tasmania, were smaller versions of their larger mainland relatives – and their overall body size correlated to the size of the islands they inhabited. Published today in the journal Biology Letters, this was the surprise finding of […]

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The Naracoorte Herald covered a new laser scanner nicknamed “Godzilla” being used at the Naracoorte caves. The scanner is able to date sand grains contained within cave sediment. The scanner picks up low level radiation accumulation in the grains accumulated from the surrounding environment which is contained until exposed to light. This means the scanner […]

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Jenna Crowe-Riddell is a finalist for the University of Adelaide STEM Award, in the Channel 9 Young Achievers Award. These awards highlight and award young people for significant contributions in their categories. There is a people’s choice component of these awards: so please vote for her through this Facebook poll  https://www.facebook.com/SAYoungAchiever/app/126231547426086/?app_data=%7B%7D Jenna is currently completing […]

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The quantification of the effects of fire and climate change on terrestrial ecosystem depends on our ability to reconstruct past landscape changes. The semi-quantitative nature of Australian palynology has allowed objective inferences of landscape change from pollen data, yet we remain uninformed about the actual degree of alteration of past land-cover due to biases in […]

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Through the awards, we acknowledge the achievements of talented individuals, including recent PhD graduates and early career science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals and teachers, who are making an outstanding contribution to society both nationally and internationally. The South Australian Science Excellence Awards recognise and reward outstanding scientific endeavour in the state, including its application in […]

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NRM Science Conference 2018

We are delighted to be hosting the NRM Science Conference 2018 on our beautiful grounds, at the Adelaide University on the 10th & 11th of April 2018. This conference is a chance to showcase the NRM science underpinning environmental decision making, policy and management in South Australia. Building on the success of the first two conferences, […]

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