Two Southern Ocean diatoms are more sensitive to ocean acidification and changes in irradiance than the prymnesiophyte Phaeocystis antarctica

To better understand the impact of ocean acidification (OA) and changes in light availability on Southern Ocean phytoplankton physiology, we investigated the effects of pCO2 (380 and 800 µatm) in combination with low and high irradiance (20 or 50 and 200 µmol photons m−2 s−1) on growth, particulate organic carbon (POC) fixation and photophysiology in the three ecologically relevant species Chaetoceros debilis, Fragilariopsis kerguelensis and Phaeocystis antarctica. Irrespective of the light scenario, neither growth nor POC per cell was stimulated by OA in any of the tested species and the two diatoms even displayed negative responses in growth (e.g. C. debilis) or POC content (e.g. F. kerguelensis) under OA in conjunction with high light. For both diatoms, also maximum quantum yields of PSII (Fv/Fm) were decreased under these conditions, indicating lowered photochemical efficiencies. To counteract the negative effects by OA and high light, the two diatoms showed diverging photoacclimation strategies. While cellular chlorophyll a and fucoxanthin contents were enhanced in C. debilis to potentially maximize light absorption, F. kerguelensis exhibited reduced chlorophyll a per cell, increased disconnection of antennae from photosystem II reaction centers and strongly lowered absolute electron transport rates (ETR). The decline in ETRs in F. kerguelensis might be explained in terms of different species-specific strategies for tuning the available flux of adenosine triphosphate and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate. Overall, our results revealed that P. antarctica was more tolerant to OA and changes in irradiance than the two diatoms, which may have important implications for biogeochemical cycling.

Trimborn S., Thoms S., Brenneis T., Pascale Heiden J., Beszteri S. & Bischof K., in press. Two Southern Ocean diatoms are more sensitive to ocean acidification and changes in irradiance than the prymnesiophyte Phaeocystis antarctica. Physiologia Plantarum. Article (subscription required).

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