Ocean acidification has different effects on the production of DMS and DMSP measured in cultures of Emiliania huxleyi and a mesocosm study: a comparison of laboratory monocultures and community interactions

The human-induced rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide since the industrial revolution has led to increasing oceanic carbon uptake and changes in seawater carbonate chemistry, resulting in lowering of surface water pH. In this study we investigated the effect of increasing pCO2 on concentrations of volatile biogenic dimethylsulphide (DMS) and its precursor dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP), through monoculture studies and community pCO2 perturbation. DMS is a climatically important gas produced by many marine algae: it transfers sulphur into the atmosphere and is a major influence on biogeochemical climate regulation through breakdown to sulphate and formation of subsequent cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). Overall, production of DMS and DMSP by the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi strain RCC1229 was unaffected by growth at 900 µatm pCO2, but DMSP production normalised to cell volume was 12% lower at the higher pCO2 treatment. These cultures were compared with community DMS and DMSP production during an elevated pCO2 mesocosm experiment with the aim of studying E. huxleyi in the natural environment. Results contrasted with the culture experiments and showed reductions in community DMS and DMSP concentrations of up to 60% and 32% respectively at pCO2 up to 3000 µatm, with changes attributed to poorer growth of DMSP-producing nanophytoplankton species, including E. huxleyi, and potentially increased microbial consumption of DMS and dissolved DMSP at higher pCO2. DMS and DMSP production differences between culture and community likely arise from pH affecting the inter-species responses between microbial producers and consumers.

Webb A., Malin G., Hopkins F., Ho K. L., Riebesell U., Schulz K., Larsen A. & Liss P., in press. Ocean acidification has different effects on the production of DMS and DMSP measured in cultures of Emiliania huxleyi and a mesocosm study: a comparison of laboratory monocultures and community interactions. Environmental Chemistry. Article (subscription required).


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