Variation in thermal tolerances of native freshwater fishes in South Africa’s Cape Fold Ecoregion: examining the east-west gradient in species’ sensitivity to climate warming
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The Cape Fold Ecoregion (CFE) is a biodiversity hotspot with high levels of endemism in its freshwater fish fauna. This study examined inter and intra-specific variation in critical thermal maxima (TCmax) for eight native species of freshwater fish from the CFE. Cape galaxias Galaxias zebratus, Breede River redfin Pseudobarbus burchelli, Berg River redfin Pseudobarbus burgi, Clanwilliam redfin Pseudobarbus calidus and fiery redfin Pseudobarbus phlegethon were the most thermally sensitive (TCmax = 29.8–32.8 C). Clanwilliam rock-catfish Austroglanis gilli, Eastern Cape redfin Pseudobarbus afer and Cape kurper Sandelia capensis were moderately sensitive (TCmax = 33.0–36.8 C). An increase in intra-specific thermal sensitivity of S. capensis was observed from east to west. The results were related to in situ water temperature, which influenced TCmax for all species, suggesting that thermal history is a major driver of variation in thermal tolerance amongst populations. These thermal tolerance data for freshwater fishes in the CFE demonstrate that resilience to climate warming follows a geographical cline and that the more sensitive western species and regions are conservation priorities.
- RESEARCH: Weyl, O