As atmospheric CO2 increases, so does the amount of CO2 dissolved in the ocean which-in turn-causes ocean pHto decline, a process known as ocean acidification. There are grave concerns about the impact of ocean acidification on marine biodiversity and ecosystems. The effects of high HCO3-/low pH on non-calcifying species such as fish are poorly understood.
Studies on olfaction are limited to behavioural alterations of coral reef fish exposed to low water pH; there are no studies on coastal species and/or with economical importance. Furthermore, although there is evidence that atmospheric CO2 concentrations predicted to occur by the end of this century will have strong effects on olfactory-mediated behaviour of reef fish, nothing is known about the cellular mechanisms involved.
Ocean acidification is predicted to change the ionic content of seawater; the capacity of fish to adapt to such changes clearly depends on their ability to detect them. This project aims to evaluate the effects of ocean acidification on the perception of different odorants by the olfactory epithelium and subsequent processing of sensory input at different levels in the central nervous system.
Concurrently, the capacity of fish to detect changes in water ion concentration underlying ocean acidification will be evaluated. This will be carried out on an important ecological and aquaculture species, the Senegalese sole (Solea senegalensis), but results will be applicable to many other species.