Thirukanthan CS1*, Zikri Omar2, Mohamad Nor Azra1,3 and Mohd Effendy Abd AWM1,4
1Institute of Marine Biotechnology (IMB), Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT), Malaysia
2Pahang Biodiversity Council, Pahang Government Secretary’s Office, Malaysia
3Research Center for Marine and Land Bioindustry, Earth Sciences and Maritime Organization, National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), Indonesia
4Faculty of Fisheries and Food Science, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT), Malaysia
*Corresponding author: Thirukanthan CS, Institute of Marine Biotechnology (IMB), Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT), Malaysia
Submission: March 27, 2023;Published: April 21, 2023
ISSN 2578-031X Volume5 Issue5
Seahorses, members of the genus Hippocampus, are ecologically significant and charismatic marine species found in diverse coastal ecosystems across the globe. Climate change poses a substantial threat to their populations and habitats, with rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, and extreme weather events impacting their physiology, behavior, distribution, and reproduction. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of seahorses in the context of a changing climate, examining its effects on both populations and habitats. We discuss the impacts of rising sea temperatures on seahorse physiology and reproduction, the consequences of ocean acidification on their exoskeletons and prey availability, and the ramifications of extreme weather events on habitat destruction and fragmentation. Furthermore, we highlight recent research studies that assess seahorse vulnerability and resilience to climate change, shedding light on potential distribution shifts and extinction risks. Finally, we explore ongoing conservation efforts and strategies aimed at preserving seahorse populations and habitats in the face of climate change, such as habitat restoration and protection projects, international collaborations, and public awareness campaigns. By fostering interdisciplinary research, engaging local communities, and promoting global cooperation, this article aims to raise awareness and inform future research and conservation initiatives, paving the way towards a more sustainable and resilient world for seahorses and the marine ecosystems they inhabit.
Keywords:Seahorse; Climate change; Ocean acidification; Habitat degradation; Conservation effort
Seahorses, belonging to the genus Hippocampus, are a group of unique marine fish that inhabit a wide range of coastal ecosystems worldwide. As charismatic and ecologically significant species, seahorses play a vital role in maintaining the health and stability of their habitats. Comprising over 48 recognized species, these fascinating creatures are found in diverse environments, including seagrasses, mangroves, and coral reefs, across the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans . Despite their global distribution, seahorses face numerous challenges, with climate change posing one of the most significant threats to their survival . As ectothermic animals, seahorses are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which can impact their physiology, behavior, distribution, and reproduction. The consequences of climate change can be observed on both local and global scales, affecting individual species and entire ecosystems . For endangered seahorse species, the implications of climate change are especially concerning, as they are more susceptible to extinction due to their limited population sizes and distribution ranges. This article aims to provide a comprehensive, in-depth overview of the effects of climate change on seahorse populations and habitats across the world.
To better understand the impact of climate change on seahorses, this article will explore various aspects of this global phenomenon, including rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, and extreme weather events. The discussion will examine the consequences of these changes on seahorse populations and their habitats, such as seagrasses, mangroves, and coral reefs. Furthermore, the article will shed light on recent research studies investigating the vulnerability and resilience of seahorse species in the face of climate change. Lastly, the article will discuss ongoing conservation efforts and strategies aimed at preserving seahorse populations and their habitats in a rapidly changing world. By providing a thorough understanding of the challenges seahorses face due to climate change, this article hopes to raise awareness and inform future research and conservation initiatives.
Impact of climate change on seahorse populations
Climate change has led to a variety of direct and indirect effects on seahorse populations worldwide. These impacts can be observed at various levels, from individual physiological responses to shifts in population dynamics and distribution patterns. This section will delve deeper into the consequences of climate change on seahorses, exploring the effects of rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, and extreme weather events on the survival, reproduction, and distribution of these unique marine species.
Effects of rising sea temperatures:One of the primary consequences of climate change is the increase in ocean temperatures, which can have profound implications for seahorse populations. As ectothermic organisms, seahorses rely on the surrounding water temperature to regulate their body temperature. Consequently, any fluctuations in their environment can directly affect their metabolic rates, energy expenditure, and overall physiological performance [3-5]. Elevated water temperatures can induce thermal stress in seahorses, potentially resulting in reduced growth rates, impaired immune function, and increased susceptibility to diseases . Moreover, increased temperatures can disrupt the reproductive processes of seahorses, leading to lower fecundity, decreased offspring survival, and, ultimately, a decline in population sizes . Most seahorse species, are particularly vulnerable to temperature-induced stress due to their limited distribution range and confinement to specific temperature zones .
Implications of ocean acidification:Ocean acidification, resulting from the absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide, is another critical aspect of climate change that has significant implications for seahorse populations. As the pH of seawater decreases, the availability of carbonate ions, essential for the formation of calcium carbonate structures, is reduced. This can have direct consequences for seahorses, which possess an exoskeleton made of calcified plates. Increased ocean acidity can weaken the exoskeleton of seahorses, making them more susceptible to predation and injury . Furthermore, ocean acidification can affect the availability and distribution of seahorses’ planktonic prey, leading to potential changes in their feeding behavior and energy allocation [4,9]. The combination of these factors can result in decreased growth and reproductive rates, ultimately threatening the long-term survival of seahorse populations.
Impacts of extreme weather events:Climate change has been associated with an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as storms, cyclones, and floods. These events can lead to the destruction of critical seahorse habitats, such as seagrasses, mangroves, and coral reefs, resulting in the loss of shelter, food sources, and breeding grounds. Moreover, extreme weather events can cause abrupt changes in water temperature, salinity, and turbidity, inducing stress and affecting the survival of seahorse populations . Habitat destruction and fragmentation due to extreme weather events can have particularly severe consequences for species with restricted distribution ranges and specialized habitat requirements, such as the endangered White’s seahorse (Hippocampus whitei) in Australia , Knysna seahorse (Hippocampus capensis) in South Africa  etc. As the frequency and intensity of these events are projected to increase in the coming decades, the conservation of seahorses and their habitats becomes increasingly vital to ensure their long-term survival in the face of climate change.
Research studies and conservation efforts
Understanding the impacts of climate change on seahorse populations and their habitats is crucial for developing effective conservation strategies to safeguard these species. Numerous research studies and conservation initiatives have been undertaken to assess the vulnerability and resilience of seahorses to climate change and implement measures to protect their populations and ecosystems. This section seems to have many redundant statements with earlier subtopics. Keep it more creative and remove redundancy.
Assessing seahorse vulnerability and resilience to climate change:Numerous investigations have probed the complex interplay between seahorses and the ever-evolving environmental conditions brought on by climate change. Researchers have embarked on novel approaches to evaluate seahorses’ ability to cope with the fluctuating climate by examining their physiological and ecological responses. For instance, innovative studies have explored seahorse species’ distinct thermal tolerances, shedding light on their individual susceptibilities to temperature variations . Such ground-breaking research offers crucial insights into potential range shifts and the looming threat of extinction for seahorses amidst diverse climate change scenarios. In parallel, pioneering work on seahorses’ response to ocean acidification has unveiled their susceptibility to alterations in seawater chemistry, providing valuable guidance for the development of targeted conservation and management strategies . Furthermore, research on the ramifications of habitat degradation and fragmentation, exacerbated by climate change, has empowered scientists to delve deeper into seahorses’ unique habitat needs and preferences. This knowledge serves as a cornerstone for devising and implementing effective habitat restoration and preservation initiatives.
Seahorse conservation initiatives:Conservation efforts targeting seahorse populations and their habitats have been implemented at various scales, ranging from local communitybased projects to international collaborations. Some notable conservation initiatives include:
A. Project seahorseThis global organization, founded in 1996, focuses on seahorse research, conservation, and sustainable trade. Project Seahorse has played a crucial role in advancing our understanding of seahorse biology and ecology and developing effective conservation strategies. Through its efforts, seahorses have been included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which requires countries to ensure that the international trade of seahorses is sustainable and does not threaten their survival .
B. Seahorse alliance:The Seahorse Alliance is a coalition of organizations and researchers working to protect seahorses and their habitats. The alliance promotes seahorse research, habitat conservation, and community engagement initiatives to improve our understanding of seahorse ecology and ensure their long-term survival in the face of climate change and other threats .
C. Habitat restoration and protection projects:Numerous projects have been undertaken to restore and protect seahorse habitats, such as seagrass meadows, mangrove forests, and coral reefs. These projects involve activities like habitat mapping, monitoring, and restoration, as well as the establishment of marine protected areas and no-take zones to minimize human-induced pressures on seahorse populations and their ecosystems [15,16].
D. Public awareness and education campaigns:Public awareness and education are essential components of seahorse conservation efforts. Organizations and researchers actively engage with local communities, stakeholders, and the general public to raise awareness about the ecological importance of seahorses and the threats they face, promoting responsible and sustainable practices to protect these unique marine species.
By fostering a deeper understanding of the impacts of climate change on seahorses and their habitats, research studies and conservation efforts contribute to the development of effective strategies to ensure their long-term survival in a rapidly changing world.
In conclusion, the impacts of climate change on seahorses and their habitats are intricate and multifaceted, posing significant challenges to the long-term survival and well-being of these unique marine species. The direct effects of climate change, such as rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, and extreme weather events, can jeopardize the physiological and reproductive processes of seahorses. Simultaneously, the degradation and fragmentation of essential habitats, including seagrass meadows, mangrove forests, and coral reefs, threaten the foundation of seahorse ecosystems. Scientific research plays a pivotal role in unveiling the complex interactions between seahorses and their changing environment, shedding light on their vulnerability, resilience, and adaptive capacity in the face of climate change. Furthermore, conservation initiatives, ranging from habitat restoration and protection projects to international collaborations and public awareness campaigns, are instrumental in safeguarding seahorse populations and ecosystems from the mounting pressures of global climate change.
The future of seahorses in a rapidly changing world depends on our collective efforts to understand, mitigate, and adapt to the challenges posed by climate change. By fostering interdisciplinary research, engaging local communities, and promoting global cooperation, we can strive to secure a brighter future for seahorses and the myriad of marine species that share their habitats. Together, we can navigate the uncertain waters of climate change, charting a course towards a more sustainable and resilient world for these captivating creatures and the oceans they inhabit.
© 2023 Thirukanthan CS. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and build upon your work non-commercially.