Ocean acidification (OA) and anthropogenic noise are both known to cause stress and induce physiological and behavioural changes in fish, with consequences for fitness. OA is also predicted to reduce the ocean’s capacity to absorb low-frequency sounds produced by human activity. Consequently, anthropogenic noise could propagate further under an increasingly acidic ocean. For the first time, this study investigated the independent and combined impacts of elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) and anthropogenic noise on the behaviour of a marine fish, the European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax). In a fully factorial experiment crossing two CO2 levels (current day and elevated) with two noise conditions (ambient and pile driving), D. labrax were exposed to four CO2/noise treatment combinations: 400 µatm/ambient, 1000 µatm/ambient, 400 µatm/pile-driving, and 1000 µatm/pile-driving. Pile-driving noise increased ventilation rate (indicating stress) compared with ambient noise conditions. Elevated CO2 did not alter the ventilation rate response to noise. Furthermore, there was no interaction effect between elevated CO2 and pile-driving noise, suggesting that OA is unlikely to influence startle or ventilatory responses of fish to anthropogenic noise. However, effective management of anthropogenic noise could reduce fish stress, which may improve resilience to future stressors.
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