Coccolithophore responses to environmental variability in the South China Sea: species composition and calcite content

Coccolithophore contributions to the global marine carbon cycle are regulated by the calcite content of their scales (coccoliths), and the relative cellular levels of photosynthesis and calcification. All three of these factors vary between coccolithophore species, and with response to the growth environment. Here, water samples were collected in the northern basin of the South China Sea (SCS) during summer 2014 in order to examine how environmental variability influenced species composition and cellular levels of calcite content. The vertical structure of the coccolithophore community was strongly regulated by mesoscale eddies. All living coccolithophores produced within the euphotic zone (1 % of surface irradiance), and Florisphaera profunda was a substantial coccolithophore and coccolith-calcite producer in the Deep Chlorophyll-a Maximum (DCM), especially in most oligotrophic anti-cyclonic eddy centers. Placolith-bearing coccolithophores, plus F. profunda, and other larger and numerically rare species made almost equal contributions to coccolith-based calcite in the water column. For Emiliania huxleyi biometry measurements, coccolith size positively correlated with nutrients, and it is suggested that coccolith length is influenced by nutrient and light related growth rates. However, larger sized coccoliths were related to low pH and calcite saturation, although it is not a simple cause and effect relationship. Genotypic or ecophenotypic variation may also be linked to coccolith size variation.

Jin X. B., Liu C. L., Poulton A. J., Dai M. H. & Guo X. H., 2016. Coccolithophore responses to environmental variability in the South China Sea: species composition and calcite content. Biogeosciences Discussions 1-33. Article.


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