Ocean acidification increases domoic acid contents during a spring to summer succession of coastal phytoplankton


• Long term mesocosm study (∼100 d) with simulated ocean acidification conditions.

• Increased levels of domoic acid in CO2 enriched mesocosm towards the end of the study.

• Occurrence of several classes of phycotoxins in the Gullmar Fjord, Sweden.


Enrichment of the oceans with CO2 may be beneficial for some marine phytoplankton, including harmful algae. Numerous laboratory experiments provided valuable insights into the effects of elevated pCO2 on the growth and physiology of harmful algal species, including the production of phycotoxins. Experiments close to natural conditions are the next step to improve predictions, as they consider the complex interplay between biotic and abiotic factors that can confound the direct effects of ocean acidification. We therefore investigated the effect of ocean acidification on the occurrence and abundance of phycotoxins in bulk plankton samples during a long-term mesocosm experiment in the Gullmar Fjord, Sweden, an area frequently experiencing harmful algal blooms. During the experimental period, a total of seven phycotoxin-producing harmful algal genera were identified in the fjord, and in accordance, six toxin classes were detected. However, within the mesocosms, only domoic acid and the corresponding producer Pseudo-nitzschia spp. was observed. Despite high variation within treatments, significantly higher particulate domoic acid contents were measured in the mesocosms with elevated pCO2. Higher particulate domoic acid contents were additionally associated with macronutrient limitation. The risks associated with potentially higher phycotoxin levels in the future ocean warrants attention and should be considered in prospective monitoring strategies for coastal marine waters.

Wohlrab S., John U., Klemm K., Eberlein T., Maria A., Grivogiannis F., Krock B., Frickenhaus S., Bach L. T., Rost B., Riebesell U. & Van de Waal D. B., in press. Ocean acidification increases domoic acid contents during a spring to summer succession of coastal phytoplankton. Harmful Algae. Article (subscription required).

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