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Effects of carbon dioxide on salmonid survival and embryonic development.

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CO2 labWhile significant discussion of climate change is directed at altering weather patterns and atmospheric composition of carbon dioxide (CO2) on terrestrial species, little attention has been directed at the role of increased CO2 on freshwater organisms. However, awareness of global green house gas emissions such as CO2, and its effect on aquatic organisms, is becoming increasingly important. What is certain is that stressors to native aquatic species associated with climate change are only going to compound existing ecological impacts such as invasive species, hybridization, and habitat degradation.

Scientists at NOROCK, through a partnership with Montana State University’s American Indian Research Opportunity program (AIRO), are studying the effects of CO2 on fish survival and development. We are looking at the use of CO2 as an alternative fish management approach for invasive fish species, as well as assessing the effects of increasing aqueous CO2 associated with climate change on native and invasive salmonids.

Preliminary studies on the effects of increasing aqueous CO2 on freshwater and marine fish species conducted by NOROCK and others suggest that embryonic and larval developmental stages in fishes may be more susceptible to rising CO2 concentrations than juveniles and adults. We have initiated studies to examine critical periods of susceptibility in salmonids to acute and chronic exposure to aqueous CO2. We will also conduct dose response studies in non-natives competitors such as lake, brown and rainbow trout. These studies will be conducted in collaboration with US Fish and Wildlife Service National Fish Hatcheries including Gavin’s Point, Ennis, and Saratoga fish hatcheries as well as with scientists from the Bozeman Fish Technology Center.