The physiological response of marine diatoms to ocean acidification: differential roles of seawater pCO2 and pH

Although increasing the pCO2 for diatoms will presumably down‐regulate the CO2‐concentrating mechanism (CCM) to save energy for growth, different species have been reported to respond differently to ocean acidification (OA). To better understand their growth responses to OA, we acclimated the diatoms Thalassiosira pseudonana, Phaeodactylum tricornutum, and Chaetoceros muelleri to ambient (pCO2 400 μatm, pH 8.1), carbonated (pCO2 800 μatm, pH 8.1), acidified (pCO2 400 μatm, pH 7.8), and OA (pCO2 800 μatm, pH 7.8) conditions and investigated how seawater pCO2 and pH affect their CCMs, photosynthesis, and respiration both individually and jointly. In all three diatoms, carbonation down‐regulated the CCMs, while acidification increased both the photosynthetic carbon fixation rate and the fraction of CO2 as the inorganic carbon source. The positive OA effect on photosynthetic carbon fixation was more pronounced in C. muelleri, which had a relatively lower photosynthetic affinity for CO2, than in either T. pseudonana or P. tricornutum. In response to OA, T. pseudonana increased respiration for active disposal of H+ to maintain its intracellular pH, whereas P. tricornutum and C. muelleri retained their respiration rate but lowered the intracellular pH to maintain the cross‐membrane electrochemical gradient for H+ efflux. As the net result of changes in photosynthesis and respiration, growth enhancement to OA of the three diatoms followed the order of C. muelleri > P. tricornutum > T. pseudonana. This study demonstrates that elucidating the separate and joint impacts of increased pCO2 and decreased pH aids the mechanistic understanding of OA effects on diatoms in the future, acidified oceans.

Shi D., Hong H., Su X., Liao L., Chang S. & Lin W., in press. The physiological response of marine diatoms to ocean acidification: differential roles of seawater pCO2 and pH. Journal of Phycology. Article (subscription required).

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