Phytoplankton calcification in a high-CO2 world

Ocean acidification in response to rising atmospheric CO2 partial pressures is widely expected to reduce calcification by marine organisms. From the mid-Mesozoic, coccolithophores have been major calcium carbonate producers in the world’s oceans, today accounting for about a third of the total marine CaCO3 production. Here, we present laboratory evidence that calcification and net primary production in the coccolithophore species Emiliania huxleyi are significantly increased by high CO2 partial pressures. Field evidence from the deep ocean is consistent with these laboratory conclusions, indicating that over the past 220 years there has been a 40% increase in average coccolith mass. Our findings show that coccolithophores are already responding and will probably continue to respond to rising atmospheric CO2 partial pressures, which has important implications for biogeochemical modeling of future oceans and climate.
M. Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez, Paul R. Halloran, Rosalind E. M. Rickaby, Ian R. Hall, Elena Colmenero-Hidalgo, John R. Gittins, Darryl R. H. Green, Toby Tyrrell, Samantha J. Gibbs, Peter von Dassow, Eric Rehm, E. Virginia Armbrust, and Karin P. Boessenkool, 2008. Phytoplankton calcification in a high-CO2 world. Science 320: 336-340. Article.

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