Warming and ocean acidification effects on phytoplankton—from species shifts to size shifts within species in a mesocosm experiment

While the isolated responses of marine phytoplankton to climate warming and to ocean acidification have been studied intensively, studies on the combined effect of both aspects of Global Change are still scarce. Therefore, we performed a mesocosm experiment with a factorial combination of temperature (9 and 15°C) and pCO2 (means: 439 ppm and 1040 ppm) with a natural autumn plankton community from the western Baltic Sea. Temporal trajectories of total biomass and of the biomass of the most important higher taxa followed similar patterns in all treatments. When averaging over the entire time course, phytoplankton biomass decreased with warming and increased with CO2 under warm conditions. The contribution of the two dominant higher phytoplankton taxa (diatoms and cryptophytes) and of the 4 most important species (3 diatoms, 1 cryptophyte) did not respond to the experimental treatments. Taxonomic composition of phytoplankton showed only responses at the level of subdominant and rare species. Phytoplankton cell sizes increased with CO2 addition and decreased with warming. Both effects were stronger for larger species. Warming effects were stronger than CO2 effects and tended to counteract each other. Phytoplankton communities without calcifying species and exposed to short-term variation of CO2 seem to be rather resistant to ocean acidification.

Sommer U., Paul C. & Moustaka-Gouni M., 2015. Warming and ocean acidification effects on phytoplankton—from species shifts to size shifts within species in a mesocosm experiment. PLoS ONE 10(5): e0125239. Article.


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