Mesozooplankton community development at elevated CO2 concentrations: results from a mesocosm experiment in an Arctic fjord

The increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere caused by burning fossil fuels leads to increasing pCO2 and decreasing pH in the world oceans. These changes may have severe consequences for marine biota, especially in cold-water ecosystems due to higher solubility of CO2. However, studies on the response of mesozooplankton communities to elevated pCO2 are yet lacking. In order to test whether abundance and taxonomic composition change with pCO2, we have sampled nine mesocosms, which were deployed in Kongsfjorden, an Arctic fjord at Svalbard, and were adjusted to eight CO2 concentrations, initially ranging from 185 μatm to 1420 μatm. Samples were taken weekly over a six-week period with an Apstein net (55 μm mesh size) in all mesocosms and the surrounding fjord. In addition, sediment trap samples, taken every second day in the mesocosms, were analyzed to account for losses due to vertical migration and mortality. The taxonomic analysis revealed that meroplanktonic larvae (cirripeds, polychaetes, bivalves, gastropod, and decapods) dominated in the mesocosms while copepods (Calanus spp., Oithona similis, Acartia longiremis and Microsetella norvegica) were found in lower abundances. In the fjord copepods prevailed for most of our study. With time, abundance and taxonomic composition developed similarly in all mesocosms; the pCO2 had no significant effect on the overall community structure. However, single taxa responded to elevated CO2concentrations. The ratio of cirripedia nauplii to cypris larvae, the next developmental stage, in the sediment traps averaged over the entire experiment increased with pCO2 and this suggests that increased pCO2 may have delayed their development. Also, the number of bivalves, averaged over the experimental period, decreased significantly with increasing pCO2. The nature of the CO2 effect, either direct or indirect, remains open and needs to be addressed in future.

Niehoff B., Knüppel N., Daase M., Czerny J. & Boxhammer, T., 2012. Mesozooplankton community development at elevated CO2 concentrations: results from a mesocosm experiment in an Arctic fjord. Biogeosciences Discussions 9: 11479-11515. Article.


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