How Likely is it That Fish Populations Will Successfully Adapt to Global Warming?

EPA Grant Number: R829420E02
Title: How Likely is it That Fish Populations Will Successfully Adapt to Global Warming?
Investigators: Klerks, Paul L. , Leberg, Paul L.
Institution: University of Louisiana at Lafayette
EPA Project Officer: Hunt, Sherri
Project Period: June 10, 2002 through June 9, 2004 (Extended to June 9, 2006)
Project Amount: $121,598
RFA: EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: EPSCoR (The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research)


The proposed research will investigate how likely it is that populations of fish will successfully adapt to temperature changes associated with global warming. A major factor determining the long-term ecological effects of global warming will be whether organisms will be able to adapt to global warming. Successful adaptation would mean that global warming does not displace species from their current habitats. Distribution shifts and extinctions would occur if the organisms would fail to adapt to deleterious effects of global warming. At present there is insufficient information to predict almost any species' evolutionary response to climate change. The question is of special importance to the southeastern U.S., as organisms in warm waters may already be living close to their temperature tolerance limit, and because of the importance of fishery resources to the region's economy.


Three questions will be addressed: (1) Are populations potentially able to adapt to temperature changes? This will be addressed through: (a) laboratory selection experiments, (b) determinations of the amount of heritable variation for temperature tolerance in laboratory populations, and (c) comparisons of temperature tolerance between wild populations in waters receiving heated effluents and those in control areas. (2) What is the relationship between population bottlenecks, genetic variation, and a population's ability to adapt to temperature changes? It will be determined if laboratory populations that have experienced specific population bottlenecks differ in their response to selection for temperature tolerance and/or differ in the amount of variation for temperature tolerance that is heritable. (3) What are the consequences of adaptation to temperature changes for long-term survival? Fitness consequences of adaptation will be compared between control and adapted populations. Several fitness components will be determined at individual and/or population levels: genetic variation, growth, reproduction, sexual development, and response to other stressors.

Expected Results:

This research will demonstrate for two specific fish species if they can adapt to increased water temperatures, what the long-term fitness consequences are, and whether the capacity to adapt is affected by a drastic reduction in population size.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 8 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

global climate, temperature, ecological effects, vulnerability, genetic variation, aquatic, ecology., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, Geographic Area, Hydrology, climate change, State, Environmental Monitoring, Atmospheric Sciences, Ecological Risk Assessment, wetlands, fish habitat, watershed, global change, Louisiana (LA), coastal ecosystems, global warming, land and water resources, aquatic ecology, climate variability, genetic diversity

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2002 Progress Report
  • 2003 Progress Report
  • 2004 Progress Report
  • Final Report