Photosynthesis and calcification of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi are more sensitive to changed levels of light and CO2 under nutrient limitation

Highlights

  • Nutrient limitation reduced the light intensity for cells to achieve the highest rates of photosynthesis and calcification.
  • Nitrate limitation enhanced calcification rate and phosphate limitation reduced photosynthetic rate.
  • Electron transport rate linearly and positively correlated with rates of photosynthesis and calcification.

Abstract

Photophysiological responses of phytoplankton to changing multiple environmental drivers are essential in understanding and predicting ecological consequences of ocean climate changes. In this study, we investigated the combined effects of two CO2 levels (410 and 925 μatm) and five light intensities (80 to 480 μmol photons m−2 s−1) on cellular pigments contents, photosynthesis and calcification of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi grown under nutrient replete and limited conditions, respectively. Our results showed that high light intensity, high CO2 level and nitrate limitation acted synergistically to reduce cellular chlorophyll a and carotenoid contents. Nitrate limitation predominantly enhanced calcification rate; phosphate limitation predominantly reduced photosynthetic carbon fixation rate, with larger extent of the reduction under higher levels of CO2 and light. Reduced availability of both nitrate and phosphate under the elevated CO2 concentration decreased saturating light levels for the cells to achieve the maximal relative electron transport rate (rETRmax). Light-saturating levels for rETRmax were lower than that for photosynthetic and calcification rates under the nutrient limitation. Regardless of the culture conditions, rETR under growth light levels correlated linearly and positively with measured photosynthetic and calcification rates. Our findings imply that E. huxleyi cells acclimated to macro-nutrient limitation and elevated CO2 concentration decreased their light requirement to achieve the maximal electron transport, photosynthetic and calcification rates, indicating a photophysiological strategy to cope with CO2 rise/pH drop in shoaled upper mixing layer above the thermocline where the microalgal cells are exposed to increased levels of light and decreased levels of nutrients.

Zhang Y. & Gao K., in press. Photosynthesis and calcification of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi are more sensitive to changed levels of light and CO2 under nutrient limitation. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology. Article (subscription required).

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