Project introduction

The culture of fresh water fish in Southeast Asia is the fastest growing source of protein in the world today and its continued growth is essential as marine resources diminish, for food security in the developing world. This sector is of particular importance to the poorest people in the region, both as a source of dietary protein as well as for employment and income. Global change scenarios predict temperature rises for the region of between 1-6ºC within the next century and the ability of aquaculture species to adapt to these changes is therefore of great concern to growers and policy makers alike.

Since most of the species in tropical aquaculture are air breathers, with very different reactions to common environmental stresses than the better-known water breathers, predicting the reaction to climate change is not presently possible. By correlating temperature sensitivities, physiological functions and anatomical structures, we will identify physiological bottlenecks and key-adaptations that allow some species to thrive, while others perish, in face of environmental change. In addition this research will be used as a vehicle to stimulate the introduction of research based teaching at university level and the development of a research based advisory capacity on global change effects for policy makers in tropical Southeast Asia. Thus ensuring that the capacity for these roles is in place beyond the time frame of the project.

Project objectives

Study how a temperature rise from the current value of 27-32 °C to 32-37 °C will affect physiological performance, food conversion efficiency and growth in air-breathing fish. Particular emphasis will be placed on the role of the cardio-respiratory and digestive systems to address the prevailing hypothesis that compromised oxygen transport capacity determines temperature tolerance of aquatic ectothermic vertebrates. 4 air-breathing fish of importance in tropical aquaculture (pangasius, snakehead, climbing perch and rice eel) with marked differences in structure and function of their gills, air-breathing organs and cardiovascular systems have been selected. Identify physiological bottlenecks and key-adaptations that allow some species to thrive, while others perish, in face of environmental change.

Provide an essential basis for future decision making in light of climate change. The capacity to continue this research beyond the time frame of the project will be established in Can Tho. Further, an International annual PhD course on the physiology of air-breathing fish will be established at Can Tho University employing modern teaching techniques. This course will place emphasis on training young researches from universities in Southeast Asia.

Project partners
Aarhus University, Department of Bioscience (cordinating partners)
Can Tho University, College of Aquaculture and Fisheries, Vietnam
University of Southern Denmark, Department of Biology
Aarhus University, Institut for Klinisk Medicin

Project coordinators
A/Prof. Dr. Mark Bayley (coordinator)
Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thanh Phuong (local coordinator)

Project duration
5 years from Jan. 2013 to Dec. 2017

Project donor
DANIDA, Denmark

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College of Aquaculture and Fisheries, Campus 2, Can Tho University 
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