In situ response of Antarctic under-ice primary producers to experimentally altered pH

Elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations are contributing to ocean acidification (reduced seawater pH and carbonate concentrations), with potentially major ramifications for marine ecosystems and their functioning. Using a novel in situ experiment we examined impacts of reduced seawater pH on Antarctic sea ice-associated microalgal communities, key primary producers and contributors to food webs. pH levels projected for the following decades-to-end of century (7.86, 7.75, 7.61), and ambient levels (7.99), were maintained for 15 d in under-ice incubation chambers. Light, temperature and dissolved oxygen within the chambers were logged to track diurnal variation, with pH, O2, salinity and nutrients assessed daily. Uptake of CO2 occurred in all treatments, with pH levels significantly elevated in the two extreme treatments. At the lowest pH, despite the utilisation of CO2 by the productive microalgae, pH did not return to ambient levels and carbonate saturation states remained low; a potential concern for organisms utilising this under-ice habitat. However, microalgal community biomass and composition were not significantly affected and only modest productivity increases were noted, suggesting subtle or slightly positive effects on under-ice algae. This in situ information enables assessment of the influence of future ocean acidification on under-ice community characteristics in a key coastal Antarctic habitat.

Cummings V. J., Barr N. G., Budd R. G., Marriott P. M., Safi K. A. & Lohrer A. M., 2019. In situ response of Antarctic under-ice primary producers to experimentally altered pH.
Scientific Reports 9: 6069. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-42329-0. Article.

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