Effects of increasing temperature and acidification on the growth and competitive success of Alexandrium catenella from the Gulf of Maine

Highlights

• Growth rates of an Alexandrium catenella decrease at future temperature levels.

• Growth rates of co-occurring non-toxic dinoflagellate competitors increase.

• The findings suggest fewer future toxic blooms in the southern Gulf of Maine.

• But more toxic blooms may occur in the northeastern Gulf of Maine.

Abstract

Climate driven increases in ocean temperature and pCO2 have the potential to alter the growth and prevalence of future Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), but systematic studies on how climate drivers influence toxic algal species relative to non-toxic phytoplankton are lacking. In particular, little is known about how future climate scenarios will affect the growth of the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella, which is responsible for the paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) events that threaten the health and economy of coastal communities in the Gulf of Maine and elsewhere. The growth responses of A. catenella and two other naturally co-occurring dinoflagellates in the Gulf of Maine—Scrippsiella sp., and Amphidinium carterae—were studied in mono and mixed species cultures. Experimental treatments tested the effects of elevated temperature (20 °C), lower pH (7.8), and the combination of elevated temperature and lower pH on growth rates relative to those in near-current conditions (15 °C; pH 8.1). Growth rates of A. catenella decreased under elevated temperature and lower pH conditions, a response that was largely attributable to the effect of temperature. In contrast, growth rates of Scrippsiella sp. and A. carterae increased under elevated temperature and lower pH conditions, with temperature also being the primary driver of the response. These trends did not change substantially when these species were grown in mixed cultures (A. catenella + Scrippsiella sp., and A. catenella + A. carterae), indicating that allelopathic or competitive interactions did not affect the experimental outcome under the conditions tested. These findings suggest that A. catenella blooms may become less prevalent in the southern regions of the Gulf of Maine, but potentially more prevalent in the northeastern regions of the Gulf of Maine with continued climate change.

Seto D. S., Karp-Boss L. & Wells M. L., 2019. Effects of increasing temperature and acidification on the growth and competitive success of Alexandrium catenella from the Gulf of Maine. Harmful Algae 89: 101670. doi: 10.1016/j.hal.2019.101670. Article (subscription required).

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