Coccolithophore community response to increasing pCO2 in Mediterranean oligotrophic waters

The effects of elevated partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) on plankton communities in oligotrophic ecosystems were studied during two mesocosm experiments: one during summer 2012 in the Bay of Calvi, France, and another during winter 2013 in the Bay of Villefranche, France. Here we report on the relative abundances of coccolithophores versus siliceous phytoplankton, coccolithophore community structure, Emiliania huxleyi coccolith morphology and calcification degree. A pCO2 mediated succession of phytoplankton groups did not occur. During both experiments, coccolithophore abundance and community structure varied with time independently of pCO2 levels. Changes in the community structure were partly explained by the concentration of phosphate during the winter experiment. During the summer experiment, it was not related to any of the parameters measured. Phenological changes in the community and an attenuated response due to the low biomass building during the experiments could have masked the response to pCO2. E. huxleyi dominated the coccolithophore community in winter; it was not affected by elevated pCO2 at any time. In contrast, the abundance of Rabdosphaera clavigera, the dominant species in summer, increased with time and this increase was affected at elevated pCO2. Thus, a different coccolithophore community response based on species-specific sensitivities to pCO2 is still likely. Finally, elevated pCO2 had no traceable effect on E. huxleyi (type A) coccolith morphology or on the degree of coccolith calcification. Our results highlight the possibility that, in oligotrophic regions, nutrient availability or intrinsic phenological changes might exert larger constrains on the coccolithophore community structure than high pCO2 does solely.

Oviedo A. M., Gazeau F. & Ziveri P., in press. Coccolithophore community response to increasing pCO2 in Mediterranean oligotrophic waters. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. Article (subscription required).


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