Finding Nemo

Climate Change and Clownfish

What is Climate Change?

Climate is the "average weather" in a certain region or area. This includes temperature patterns, seasonal differences, and precipitation. Climate effects a regions ecosystems, and rapid changes in the climate of a region can severely affect it's ecosystems.

Climate Change is the rapid change in climate due to increased level of carbon dioxide and other warming gases within Earth's atmosphere. Humans emit large amounts of greenhouse gases from factories, agriculture, transportation, and power sources into the atmosphere. Generally about half the light that reaches Earth makes it to the surface where it is then absorbed and reflected back into the atmosphere.Then most of the energy is absorbed and reflected by greenhouse gases. If there are to many greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the surface temperature begins to rise.

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Results of Climate Change

Climate change affects Earth in many ways. The increased temperature results in melting icecaps, a rise in sea levels, droughts and fires, and more. This change in climate can severely affect ecosystems and the species within them. Changes in climate can change when plants bloom and fruit, when offspring are born, when a population migrates, and even destroy ecosystems.



The clownfish, also know as the anemonefish, are well known for their bright orange and white stripped pattern. Located in the Indian and Pacific Ocean, clownfish live in coral reefs or lagoons. Clownfish can range from 2-5 inches in length and can range in color from yellow to blue. They are surprisingly aggressive and are often times found guarding their homes. Clownfish often live in pairs, but there may be multiple pairs withing the same area. According the Tree of Life Web Project, clownfish have few natural enemies; however, humans often capture clownfish as pets.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about clownfish is their symbiotic relationship with sea anemones. This means that each organism relies on the other. Clownfish are the only fish that can touch anemones without being stung. This is due to a mucus-y layer coating the fish. Anemones provide clownish with a home and food while clownfish clean the food off the anemone. This created a symbiotic relationship between the two organisms.

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Clownfish are being affected

The most serious way clownfish are being affected by climate change is through ocean acidification. According to the National Ocean Service, ocean acidification is a process when carbon dioxide, released by the burning of fossil fuels, is absorbed by the ocean. After this a series of chemical reactions cause the sea water to become more acidic and causes carbonate ions to reduce in number. Carbonate ions are crucial to the development and health of ocean structures like coral reefs. Many species, including clownfish depend on the anemones found in coral reefs to survive.

According to the Species Survival Commission, acidification reduces clownfish ability to find anemone homes. This issue is especially prominent for juvenile clownfish. The process can also reduce their immunity to anemone poison build up immunity again, clownfish have to perform a dance out in the open. This makes them easy prey to predators.

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