CO2 effects on diatoms: a synthesis of more than a decade of ocean acidification experiments with natural communities (update)

Diatoms account for up to 50 % of marine primary production and are considered to be key players in the biological carbon pump. Ocean acidification (OA) is expected to affect diatoms primarily by changing the availability of CO2 as a substrate for photosynthesis or through altered ecological interactions within the marine food web. Yet, there is little consensus how entire diatom communities will respond to increasing CO2. To address this question, we synthesized the literature from over a decade of OA-experiments with natural diatom communities to uncover the following: (1) if and how bulk diatom communities respond to elevated CO2 with respect to abundance or biomass and (2) if shifts within the diatom communities could be expected and how they are expressed with respect to taxonomic affiliation and size structure. We found that bulk diatom communities responded to high CO2 in ∼60 % of the experiments and in this case more often positively (56 %) than negatively (32 %) (12 % did not report the direction of change). Shifts among different diatom species were observed in 65 % of the experiments. Our synthesis supports the hypothesis that high CO2 particularly favours larger species as 12 out of 13 experiments which investigated cell size found a shift towards larger species. Unravelling winners and losers with respect to taxonomic affiliation was difficult due to a limited database. The OA-induced changes in diatom competitiveness and assemblage structure may alter key ecosystem services due to the pivotal role diatoms play in trophic transfer and biogeochemical cycles.

Bach L. T. & Taucher J., 2019. CO2 effects on diatoms: a synthesis of more than a decade of ocean acidification experiments with natural communities. Ocean Science 15: 1159–1175. Article.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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