Resilience of SAR11 bacteria to rapid acidification in the high latitude open ocean

Ubiquitous SAR11 Alphaproteobacteria numerically dominate marine planktonic communities. Because they are excruciatingly difficult to cultivate, there is comparatively little known about their physiology and metabolic responses to long- and short- term environmental changes. As surface oceans take up anthropogenic, atmospheric CO2, the consequential process of ocean acidification could affect the global biogeochemical significance of SAR11. Shipping accidents or inadvertent release of chemicals from industrial plants can have strong short-term local effects on oceanic SAR11. This study investigated the effect of 2.5 fold acidification of seawater on the metabolism of SAR11 and other heterotrophic bacterioplankton along a natural temperature gradient crossing the North Atlantic Ocean, Norwegian and Greenland Seas. Uptake rates of the amino acid leucine by SAR11 cells as well as other bacterioplankton remained similar to controls despite an instant ∼50% increase in leucine bioavailability upon acidification. This high physiological resilience to acidification even without acclimation, suggests that open ocean dominant bacterioplankton are able to cope even with sudden and therefore more likely with long-term acidification effects.

Hartmann M., Hill P.G., Tynan E., Achterberg E. P., Leakey R. J. G. & Zubkov M. V., in press. Resilience of SAR11 bacteria to rapid acidification in the high latitude open ocean. FEMS Microbiology Ecology. Article (subscription required)


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