Physiology of coastal and estuarine species

Coastal ecosystems are highly impacted by human activities such as habitat destruction and overfishing, with impacts associated with climate change placing additional pressure on these ecosystems. Climate change has been primarily linked to the build-up of greenhouse gases and aerosols in the atmosphere that have led to increases in surface temperatures over the last 50 years. A change in climate incorporates changes in temperature, wind patterns, evaporation rates, precipitation and CO2 concentrations. These environmental changes are likely to have major implications for coastal fish and invertebrate species. An understanding of physiological changes is needed to reliably project the effects of climate change on animals, such as fishes particularly in unstable, coastal environments. The South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity has recently been provided with a NRF strategic platform grant for the development of aquatic physiological research facilities. This platform, which is being developed in association with the Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science at Rhodes University, has provided a unique opportunity to initiate this type of research in South Africa.

Projects, which are run in collaboration with SAIAB scientists (Dr Nicola James, Dr Francesca Porri, Dr Paula Pattrick) and scientists from Rhodes University (Dr Warren Potts and Dr Amber Childs) aim to 1) understand the physiological impact of changing temperatures on various temperate and subtropical fish and invertebrate species from the Kariega estuarine/coastal ecosystem in the warm-temperate region and 2) determine how estuarine and coastal systems will respond to a changing climate (temperature and pH).

Funding: NRF, Rhodes University

Duration: 2015-2017

Co-investigators and collaborators:

Dr Horst Kaiser, Rhodes University

Mr Justin Kemp, SAIAB/Rhodes University

 Students: Ms Kerry-Ann van der Walt, Mr Murray Duncan, Ms Carla Edworthy, Mr Barend Erasmus, Ms Shannon Wilsnaught