The fatty acid content of plankton is changing in subtropical coastal waters as a result of OA: results from a mesocosm study

Highlights

• First mesocosm experiment to investigate OA impacts on fatty acids profiles of plankton in subtropical coastal waters.
• Contents of total FA, PUFA, and MUFA of phytoplankton increased at late exponential phase under high pCO2 condition.
• Mesozooplankton grazing rate decreased, while DHA uptake rate increased under high pCO2 condition.

Abstract

Ocean Acidification (OA) effects on marine plankton are most often considered in terms of inorganic carbon chemistry, but decreasing pH may influence other aspects of cellular metabolism. Here we present the effects of OA on the fatty acid (FA) content and composition of an artificial phytoplankton community (Phaeodactylum tricornutum, Thalassiosira weissflogii, and Emiliania huxleyi) in a fully replicated, ∼4 m3 mesocosm study in subtropical coastal waters (Wuyuan Bay, China, 24.52°N, 117.18°E) at present day (400 μatm) and elevated (1000 μatm) pCO2 concentrations. Phytoplankton growth occurred in three phases during the 33-day experiment: an initial exponential growth leading to senescence and a subsequent decline phase. Phytoplankton sampled from these mesocosms were fed to mesozooplankton collected by net haul from Wuyuan Bay. Concentrations of saturated fatty acids (SFA) in both phytoplankton and mesozooplankton remained high under acidified and non-acidified conditions. However, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) increased significantly more under elevated pCO2 during the late exponential phase (Day 13), indicating increased nutritional value for zooplankton and higher trophic levels. Indeed, uptake rates of the essential FA docosahexaenoic acid (C20:5n3, DHA) increased in mesozooplankton under acidified conditions. However, mesozooplankton grazing rates decreased overall with elevated pCO2. Our findings show that these selected phytoplankton species have a relatively high tolerance to acidification in terms of FA production, and local mesozooplankton in these subtropical coastal waters can maintain their FA composition under end of century ocean acidification conditions.

Wang T., Tong S., Liu N., Li F., Wells M. & Gao K., in press. The fatty acid content of plankton is changing in subtropical coastal waters as a result of OA: results from a mesocosm study. Marine Environmental ResearchArticle (subscription required).

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OA-ICC HIGHLIGHTS

Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book