Carbon fluxes in natural plankton communities under elevated CO2 levels: a stable isotope labeling study

The potential impact of rising carbon dioxide (CO2) on carbon fluxes in natural plankton communities was investigated during the 2005 PeECE III mesocosm study in Bergen, Norway. Triplicate mesocosms, in which a phytoplankton bloom was induced by nutrient addition, were incubated with 1×(~350 μatm), 2×(~700 μatm), and 3× present day CO2(~1050 μatm) levels for 3 weeks. 13C labeled bicarbonate was added to all mesocosms to follow the transfer of carbon from dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) into phytoplankton and subsequently heterotrophic bacteria, zooplankton, and settling particles. Isotope ratios of polar lipid fatty acids (PLFA) were used to infer the biomass and production of phytoplankton and bacteria. Phytoplankton PLFA were enriched within one day after label addition, while it took another 3 days before bacteria showed substantial enrichment. Group-specific primary production measurements revealed that coccolithophores grew faster than green algae and diatoms. Elevated CO2 had a significant positive effect on post-bloom biomass of green algae, diatoms, and bacteria. A simple model based on measured isotope ratios of phytoplankton and bacteria revealed that CO2 had no significant effect on the carbon transfer efficiency from phytoplankton to bacteria. There was no indication of enhanced settling based on isotope mixing models during the phytoplankton bloom. Our results suggest that CO2 effects are most pronounced in the post-bloom phase, under nutrient limitation.

de Kluijver, A., Soetaert, K., Schulz, K. G., Riebesell, U., Bellerby, R. G. J., & Middelburg, J. J., 2010. Carbon fluxes in natural plankton communities under elevated CO2 levels: a stable isotope labeling study. Biogeosciences Discussions 7(3): 3257-3295. Article.

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