Malformation in coccolithophores in low pH waters: evidences from the eastern Arabian Sea

Oceanic calcifying plankton such as coccolithophores is expected to exhibit sensitivity to climate change stressors such as warming and acidification. Observational studies on coccolithophore communities along with carbonate chemistry provide important perceptions of possible adaptations of these organisms to ocean acidification. However, this phytoplankton group remains one of the least studied in the northern Indian Ocean. In 2017, the biogeochemistry group at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research-National Institute of Oceanography (CSIR-NIO) initiated a coccolithophore monitoring study in the eastern Arabian Sea (EAS). Here, we document for the first time a detailed spatial and seasonal distribution of coccolithophores and their controlling factors from the EAS, which is a well-known source of CO2 to the atmosphere. To infer the seasonality, data collected at three transects (Goa, Mangalore, and Kochi) during the Southwest Monsoon (SWM) of 2018 was compared with that of the late SWM of 2017. Apart from this, the abundance of coccolithophores was studied at the Candolim Time Series (CaTS) transect, off Goa during the Northeast Monsoon (NEM). The most abundant coccolithophore species found in the study region was Gephyrocapsa oceanica. A high abundance of G. oceanica (1800 × 103cells L−1) was observed at the Mangalore transect during the late SWM despite experiencing low pH and can be linked to nitrogen availability. The high abundance of G. oceanica at Mangalore was associated with high dimethylsulphide (DMS). Particulate inorganic carbon (PIC) and scattering coefficient retrieved from satellites also indicated a high abundance of coccolithophores off Mangalore during the late SWM of 2017. Interestingly, G. oceanica showed malformation during the late SWM in low pH waters. Malformation in coccolithophores could have a far-reaching impact on the settling fluxes of organic matter and also on the emissions of climatically important gases such as DMS and CO2, thus influencing atmospheric chemistry. The satellite data for PIC in the EAS indicates a high abundance of coccolithophore in recent years, especially during the warm El Nino years (2015 and 2018). This warrants the need for a better assessment of the fate of coccolithophores in high-CO2 and warmer oceans.

Shetye S., Gazi S., Manglavil A., Shenoy D., Kurian S., Pratihary A., Shirodkar G., Mohan R., Dias A., Naik H. & Gauns M., in press. Malformation in coccolithophores in low pH waters: evidences from the eastern Arabian Sea. Environmental Science and Pollution Research. Article.

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