Organic matter exudation by Emiliania huxleyi under simulated future ocean conditions

Emiliania huxleyi (strain B 92/11) was exposed to different growth, CO2 and temperature conditions in phosphorous controlled chemostats, to investigate effects on organic carbon exudation, and partitioning between the pools of particulate organic carbon (POC) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC). 14C incubation measurements for primary production (PP) and for extracellular release (ER) were performed. Chemical analysis included amount and composition of high molecular weight dissolved combined carbohydrates (>1 kDa, HMW-dCCHO), particulate combined carbohydrates (pCCHO) and the carbon content of transparent exopolymer particles (TEP-C). Applied CO2 and temperature conditions were 300, 550 and 900 μatm pCO2 at 14 °C, and additionally 900 μatm pCO2 at 18 °C simulating a greenhouse ocean scenario. A reduction in growth rate from μ =0.3 d−1 to μ =0.1 d−1 induced the most profound effect on the performance of E. huxleyi, relative to the effect of elevated CO2 and temperature. At μ =0.3 d−1, PP was significantly higher at elevated CO2 and temperature. DO14C production correlated to PO14C production in all cultures, resulting in similar percentages of extracellular release (DO14C/PP × 100; PER) of averaged 3.74 ± 0.94%. At μ =0.1 d−1, PO14C decreased significantly, while exudation of DO14C increased, thus leading to a stronger partitioning from the particulate to the dissolved pool. Maximum PER of 16.3 ± 2.3% were observed at μ =0.1 d−1 at greenhouse conditions. Concentrations of HMW-dCCHO and pCCHO were generally higher at μ =0.1 d−1 compared to μ =0.3 d−1. At μ =0.3 d−1, pCCHO concentration increased significantly along with elevated CO2 and temperature. Despite of high PER, the percentage of HMW-dCCHO was smallest at greenhouse conditions. However, highest TEP-formation was observed under greenhouse conditions, together with a pronounced increase in pCCHO concentration, suggesting a stronger partitioning of PP from DOC to POC by coagulation of exudates. Our results imply that greenhouse condition will enhance exudation processes in E. huxleyi and may affect organic carbon partitioning in the ocean due to an enhanced transfer of HMW-dCCHO to TEP by aggregation processes.

Borchard C., & Engel A., 2012. Organic matter exudation by Emiliania huxleyi under simulated future ocean conditions. Biogeosciences Discussions 9(1):1199-1236. Article.


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