Contrasting effects of ocean acidification on the microbial food web under different trophic conditions

We investigated the effects of an increase in dissolved CO2 on the microbial communities of the Mediterranean Sea during two mesocosm experiments in two contrasting seasons: winter, at the peak of the annual phytoplankton bloom, and summer, under low nutrient conditions. The experiments included treatments with acidification and nutrient addition, and combinations of the two. We followed the effects of ocean acidification (OA) on the abundance of the main groups of microorganisms (diatoms, dinoflagellates, nanoeukaryotes, picoeukaryotes, cyanobacteria, and heterotrophic bacteria) and on bacterial activity, leucine incorporation, and extracellular enzyme activity. Our results showed a clear stimulation effect of OA on the abundance of small phytoplankton (pico- and nanoeukaryotes), independently of the season and nutrient availability. A large number of the measured variables showed significant positive effects of acidification in summer compared with winter, when the effects were sometimes negative. Effects of OA were more conspicuous when nutrient concentrations were low. Our results therefore suggest that microbial communities in oligotrophic waters are considerably affected by OA, whereas microbes in more productive waters are less affected. The overall enhancing effect of acidification on eukaryotic pico- and nanophytoplankton, in comparison with the non-significant or even negative response to nutrient-rich conditions of larger groups and autotrophic prokaryotes, suggests a shift towards medium-sized producers in a future acidified ocean.

Sala M. M., Aparicio F. L., Balagué V., Boras J. A., Borrull E., Cardelús C., Cros L., Gomes A., López-Sanz A., Malits A., Martínez A. R., Mestre M., Movilla J., Sarmento H., Vázquez-Domínguez E., Vaqué D., Pinhassi J., Calbet A., Calvo E., Gasol J. M., Pelejero C. & Marrasé C., in press. Contrasting effects of ocean acidification on the microbial food web under different trophic conditions. ICES Journal of Marine Science. Article (subscription required).


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