SardiTemp is a multidisciplinary project that aims to determine the impact of temperature change due to global warming on metabolism, physiology, behaviour and reproduction of small pelagic fish, using the European sardine Sardina pilchardus as a model-system.

We aim to understand the response of adaptation of two different geographic populations of sardines and will analyse its’ genetic basis. Moreover, we will test the effect of temperature on carry-over and acute effects of sardine larvae. The results of different approaches will allow us to build a multidisciplinary prediction model of the distribution range considering future climate scenario projections, considering all aspects of sardines biology and ecology, and follow IPCC 2100 recommendations.

The adaptation to changing environments and how organisms will respond to climate change are key discussion topics in contemporary biology and this project will contribute with novel and original findings to the study of the biological and ecological adaptation of marine fishes to ocean warming. Moreover, it will contribute to engage the awareness of the general public, scientists and decision-makers when dealing with climate change impacts on living organisms.

Small Pelagic Species

Small Pelagic Fishes (SPF) are fusiform fishes of small dimensions that inhabit the pelagic zone, i.e., in the water column. SPF mainly occur in coastal areas down to the photic zone, above the continental shelf. SPF have short life-cycles, mature after one year and females lay a large number of eggs. Therefore, populations are characterized by large population sizes, which after suffering fluctuations, have intrinsic characteristics that allows them to recover in a short period of time.

Small pelagic fishes (SPF) are particularly vulnerable to climate change, being ectothermic, body temperature and metabolic rates are highly dependent on sea temperature. These species have high-metabolic requirements and high dependence on aerobic metabolism, and therefore are extremely sensitive to environmental changes. Alterations in SPF populations have great ecological and economic impact. SPF play a central role in marine ecosystems, and variability in these populations may have direct effects on their prey, predators and lastly, fisheries.

This group of fish is considered among the most important fisheries around the world, representing around 30% of the global fisheries, with an average of 25 millions of tonnes captured annually since 1980, and a major source of food for aquaculture purposes. In the northeastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea, the most common SPF species are:

European sardine Sardina pilchardus

The European sardine Sardina pilchardus is the model-system of SardiTemp project. It’s a small pelagic fish species that inhabit the northeastern Atlantic from Norway to Senegal, and the Mediterranean Sea. Form schools, usually at depths of 25 m to 55 m or even 100 m by day, rising to 10 m to 35 m at night. Feed mainly on planktonic crustaceans, also on larger organisms. Spawn in batches, in the open sea or near the coast, producing 50,000-60,000 eggs with a mean diameter of 1.5 mm.

In Portuguese waters, sardine spawns from
October to March. It is an important fishery target in most of its range, with a total of one million tonnes taken annually. In Portugal, in 2014 represented 15% of the total value of catches, but in the last years its’ biomass decreased 70%. Besides its economic importance, the sardines have an extremely important role in the food web, being in an intermediate position, and therefore variation in population size have significant impact on the ecosystem.

The European sardine is facing several threatens, including climate change, fisheries, pollution and predation, and therefore it is pivotal to better investigate the biological and ecological aspects of SPF to predict the evolution of these vulnerable organisms facing climate change.

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European Anchovy Engraulis encrasicolus

Image Copyright © Alessandro Falleni

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