According to a new study led by researchers from Moss Landing Marine Labs at San José State, CSU Monterey Bay, and the University of California, Santa Cruz, ocean acidification—meaning chemical changes in the ocean that result from carbon dioxide emissions—may negatively affect some juvenile rockfish, a key marine prey for many species of seabirds and marine mammals and several kinds of fishes in California’s marine ecosystem.

The research, conducted in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, suggests that the physiology of the fish in communities that inhabit rocky reefs and kelp beds may change in the future as a result of ocean acidification.

Rockfish are the most diverse group of fishes living on the west coast, with 65 different species that support important recreational and commercial fisheries.

The research—the first to look at a full range of physiological, behavioral and genomic responses to ocean acidification in temperate fishes—predicts that changes in the fish that serve as food for other fish could have profound negative consequences on the marine ecosystem and, in turn, on these fisheries.

The study was supported in part by the CSU's Council on Ocean Affairs, Science & Technology (COAST).