Micro- and mesozooplankton community response to increasing CO2 levels in the Baltic Sea: insights from a large-scale mesocosm experiment

Community approaches investigating ocean acidification (OA) effects suggest a high tolerance of micro- and mesozooplankton to carbonate chemistry changes expected to occur within this century. Plankton communities in the coastal areas of the Baltic Sea frequently experience pH variations partly exceeding projections for the near future both on a diurnal and seasonal basis, thus some level of tolerance/adaptation may be expected. We conducted a large-scale mesocosm CO2 enrichment experiment (~ 55 m3) enclosing the natural plankton community in Tvärminne/Storfjärden for eight weeks during June–August 2012 and studied community and species/taxon response of microzooplankton (ciliates) and mesozooplankton to CO2 elevations expected for this century. Besides the response to fCO2 and associate changes in carbonate chemistry speciation, we also considered temperature and chlorophyll a variations in our analyses. Shannon diversity of microzooplankton significantly decreased with fCO2 and temperature with a greater dominance of smaller species. Small sized ciliates (Myrionecta rubra, Balanion comatum, Strombidium cf. epidemum, Strobilidium sp.) showed significant relations with one or more of the factors. The phototrophic Myrionecta rubra seemed to directly benefit from higher CO2 concentrations and showed increased abundance in the pre-bloom phase. With respect to meszooplankton, we neither detected significant effects for total abundance nor for Shannon diversity. The cladocera Bosmina occurred at distinctly higher abundance (more than twice as high compared to the control mesocosms) for a short time period during the second half of the experiment in three of the CO2-enriched mesocosms except for the highest CO2 level. The ratio of Bosmina with empty to embryo/resting egg bearing brood chambers, however, was significantly affected by all three factors. An indirect CO2 effect via increased food availability stimulating Bosmina reproduction is suggested, but too low sampling frequency of this highly flexible organism probably entailed proving a significant relation with fCO2. Filter-feeding cladocerans effectively transfer microbial loop carbon to higher trophic levels. Thus, under increasing OA in cladoceran dominated mesozooplankton communities the importance of the microbial loop in the pelagic zone may be enhanced and carbon transfer to higher trophic levels stimulated.

Lischka S., Bach L.T., Schulz K.-G. & Riebesell U., 2015. Micro- and mesozooplankton community response to increasing CO2 levels in the Baltic Sea: insights from a large-scale mesocosm experiment. Biogeosciences Discussions 12:20025-20070. Article.


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