Diurnally fluctuating pCO2 enhances growth of a coastal strain of Emiliania huxleyi under future-projected ocean acidification conditions

The carbonate chemistry in coastal waters is more variable compared with that of open oceans, both in magnitude and time scale of its fluctuations. However, knowledge of the responses of coastal phytoplankton to dynamic changes in pH/pCO2 has been scarcely documented. Hence, we investigated the physiological performance of a coastal isolate of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi (PML B92/11) under fluctuating and stable pCO2 regimes (steady ambient pCO2, 400 μatm; steady elevated pCO2, 1200 μatm; diurnally fluctuating elevated pCO2, 600–1800 μatm). Elevated pCO2 inhibited the calcification rate in both the steady and fluctuating regimes. However, higher specific growth rates and lower ratios of calcification to photosynthesis were detected in the cells grown under diurnally fluctuating elevated pCO2 conditions. The fluctuating pCO2 regime alleviated the negative effects of elevated pCO2 on effective photochemical quantum yield and relative photosynthetic electron transport rate compared with the steady elevated pCO2 treatment. Our results suggest that growth of E. huxleyi could benefit from diel fluctuations of pH/pCO2 under future-projected ocean acidification, but its calcification was reduced by the fluctuation and the increased concentration of CO2, reflecting a necessity to consider the influences of dynamic pH fluctuations on coastal carbon cycles associated with ocean global changes.

Li F., Xu J., Beardall J. & Gao K., 2021. Diurnally fluctuating pCO2 enhances growth of a coastal strain of Emiliania huxleyi under future-projected ocean acidification conditions. ICES Journal of Marine Science fsab036. doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsab036. Article (subscription required). 

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