Carbon emissions killing the clownfish

NEMO may never find his way home, with new research revealing that human carbon emissions are having devastating effects on the ecology of clownfish.

Dr Phillip Munday, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, said rising levels of acidity in the ocean was causing clownfish to lose the sense of smell that guides them home.

“Like many coastal fish, clownfish are swept off their home reef into the open ocean as tiny babies and use their acute sense of smell to find their way back again,” Dr Munday said.

“Fish lose their sense of smell when sea water becomes more acidic, with potentially devastating consequences for sea life.”

Ocean acidification caused by the absorption of human-released carbon dioxide at the ocean surface is now recognised as a serious threat to marine ecosystems.

“But every time we start a car or turn on the lights, a third or more of the carbon dioxide we emit ends up in the ocean, turning its waters imperceptibly but inevitably more acidic,” he said.

“We found that baby fish no longer responded to scent cues at all when the acidity rose to the sorts of levels likely by the second half of 2100.”

Dr Munday said ocean acidification would have significant consequences for the replenishment of adult populations and could lead to declines of many coastal species.

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