Effects of elevated CO2 and temperature on phytoplankton community biomass, species composition and photosynthesis during an autumn bloom in the Western English Channel

The combined effects of elevated pCO2 and temperature were investigated during an autumn phytoplankton bloom in the Western English Channel (WEC). A full factorial 36-day microcosm experiment was conducted under year 2100 predicted temperature (+4.5 °C) and pCO2 levels (800 μatm). The starting phytoplankton community biomass was 110.2 (±5.7 sd) mg carbon (C) m−3 and was dominated by dinoflagellates (~ 50 %) with smaller contributions from nanophytoplankton (~ 13 %), cryptophytes (~ 11 %)and diatoms (~ 9 %). Over the experimental period total biomass was significantly increased by elevated pCO2 (20-fold increase) and elevated temperature (15-fold increase). In contrast, the combined influence of these two factors had little effect on biomass relative to the ambient control. The phytoplankton community structure shifted from dinoflagellates to nanophytoplankton at the end of the experiment in all treatments. Under elevated pCO2 nanophytoplankton contributed 90% of community biomass and was dominated by Phaeocystis spp., while under elevated temperature nanophytoplankton contributed 85 % of the community biomass and was dominated by smaller nano-flagellates. Under ambient conditions larger nano-flagellates dominated while the smallest nanophytoplankton contribution was observed under combined elevated pCO2 and temperature (~ 40 %). Dinoflagellate biomass declined significantly under the individual influences of elevated pCO2, temperature and ambient conditions. Under the combined effects of elevated pCO2 and temperature, dinoflagellate biomass almost doubled from the starting biomass and there was a 30-fold increase in the harmful algal bloom (HAB) species, Prorocentrum cordatum. Chlorophyll a normalised maximum photosynthetic rates (PBm) increased > 6-fold under elevated pCO2 and > 3-fold under elevated temperature while no effect on PBm was observed when pCO2 and temperature were elevated simultaneously. The results suggest that future increases in temperature and pCO2 do not appear to influence coastal phytoplankton productivity during autumn in the WEC which would have a negative feedback on atmospheric CO2.

Keys M., Tilstone G., Findlay H. S., Widdicombe C. E. & Lawson T., 2017. Effects of elevated CO2 and temperature on phytoplankton community biomass, species composition and photosynthesis during an autumn bloom in the Western English Channel. Biogeosciences Discussions. doi: 10.5194/bg-2017-510. Article.

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