How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

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The Delayed Benefits of Larval-Stage Stresses in a Marine Fish
Zambonino-Infante, J.L., Claireaux, G., Ernande, B., Jolivet, A., Quazuguel, P., Severe, A., Huelvan, C. and Mazurais, D. 2013. Hypoxia tolerance of common sole juveniles depends on dietary regime and temperature at the larval stage: evidence for environmental conditioning. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 280: 10.1098/rspb.2012.3022.

The authors write that rising temperatures typically cause "a monotonic decrease in dissolved oxygen concentration in numerous coastal and estuarine ecosystems around the world, resulting in the increased frequency, intensity and length of hypoxia episodes in shallow areas," with a primary consequence of these phenomena being the progressive widening of the gap between the availability of dissolved oxygen in the coastal water and the metabolic demand of various marine animals, which could well spell the difference between their living or dying.

What was done
Working with the common sole (Solea solea), which inhabits shallow marine areas highly exposed to environmental changes, Zambonino-Infante et al. "tested whether temperature and trophic conditions experienced during the larval stage had delayed effects on life-history traits and resistance to hypoxia at the juvenile state," thereby examining "the combined effect of global warming and hypoxia in coastal waters, which are potential stressors to many estuarine and coastal marine fishes."

What was learned
The eight French researchers report that "warmer larval temperature had a delayed positive effect on body mass and resistance to hypoxia at the juvenile stage," which finding "suggests a lower oxygen demand of individuals that had experienced elevated temperatures during larval stages."

What it means
In the concluding words of Zambonino-Infante et al., "this study clearly demonstrates that environmental conditions experienced during early developmental stages are important in controlling environmental adaptation performance at later life stages." More specifically, they state that "sole that had experienced elevated temperatures during their early-life exhibited higher body masses and tolerance to hypoxia, probably through long-term programming of metabolic pathways," noting that "such a cohort effect on growth performance and hypoxia tolerance could have major implications for population dynamics." And, therefore, they state that the larger implications of the results of their study are that (1) "developmental plasticity in animals may allow adaptation to changing environmental conditions to have delayed effects," and that (2) "this may attenuate some of the more severe predictions about organisms' responses to global warming and eutrophication."

Reviewed 30 October 2013