Plankton responses to ocean acidification: the role of nutrient limitation

Highlights

• Ocean acidification increases phytoplankton standing stock.
• This increase is more pronounced in smaller-sized taxa.
• Primary consumers reac differently depending on nutrient availability.
• Bacteria and micro-heterotrophs benefited under limiting conditions.
• In general, heterotrophs are negatively affected at nutrient replete periods.

Abstract

In situ mesocosm experiments on the effect of ocean acidification (OA) are an important tool for investigating potential OA-induced changes in natural plankton communities. In this study we combined results from various in-situ mesocosm studies in two different ocean regions (Arctic and temperate waters) to reveal general patterns of plankton community shifts in response to OA and how these changes are modulated by inorganic nutrient availability. Overall, simulated OA caused an increase in phytoplankton standing stock, which was more pronounced in smaller-sized taxa. This effect on primary producers was channelled differently into heterotroph primary consumers depending on the inorganic nutrient availability. Under limiting conditions, bacteria and micro-heterotrophs benefited with inconsistent responses of larger heterotrophs. During nutrient replete periods, heterotrophs were in general negatively affected, although there was an increase of some mesozooplankton developmental stages (i.e. copepodites). We hypothesize that changes in phytoplankton size distribution and community composition could be responsible for these food web responses.

Alvarez-Fernandez S., Bach L. T., Taucher J., Riebesell U., Sommer U., Aberle N., Brussaard C. P. D. & Boersma M., in press. Plankton responses to ocean acidification: the role of nutrient limitation. Progress in Oceanography. Article (subscription required). 

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OA-ICC HIGHLIGHTS

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