The Arctic and subarctic shelf seas, which sustain large fisheries and contribute to global biogeochemical cycling, are particularly sensitive to ongoing ocean acidification (that is, decreasing seawater pH due to anthropogenic CO2 emissions). Yet, little information is available on the effects of ocean acidification on natural phytoplankton assemblages, which are the main primary producers in high-latitude waters. Here we show that coastal Arctic and subarctic primary production is largely insensitive to ocean acidification over a large range of light and temperature levels in different experimental designs. Out of ten CO2-manipulation treatments, significant ocean acidification effects on primary productivity were observed only once (at temperatures below 2 °C), and shifts in the species composition occurred only three times (without correlation to specific experimental conditions). These results imply a high capacity to compensate for environmental variability, which can be understood in light of the environmental history, tolerance ranges and intraspecific diversity of the dominant phytoplankton species.
Hoppe C. J. M., Wolf K. K. E., Schuback N., Tortell P. D. & Rost B., in press. Compensation of ocean acidification effects in Arctic phytoplankton assemblages. Nature Climate Change. Article (subscription required).