Posts Tagged 'Antarctic'

Ocean acidification of a coastal Antarctic marine microbial community reveals a critical threshold for CO2 tolerance in phytoplankton productivity (update)

High-latitude oceans are anticipated to be some of the first regions affected by ocean acidification. Despite this, the effect of ocean acidification on natural communities of Antarctic marine microbes is still not well understood. In this study we exposed an early spring, coastal marine microbial community in Prydz Bay to CO2 levels ranging from ambient (343 µatm) to 1641 µatm in six 650 L minicosms. Productivity assays were performed to identify whether a CO2 threshold existed that led to a change in primary productivity, bacterial productivity, and the accumulation of chlorophyll a (Chl a) and particulate organic matter (POM) in the minicosms. In addition, photophysiological measurements were performed to identify possible mechanisms driving changes in the phytoplankton community. A critical threshold for tolerance to ocean acidification was identified in the phytoplankton community between 953 and 1140 µatm. CO2 levels  ≥ 1140 µatm negatively affected photosynthetic performance and Chl a-normalised primary productivity (csGPP14C), causing significant reductions in gross primary production (GPP14C), Chl a accumulation, nutrient uptake, and POM production. However, there was no effect of CO2 on C : N ratios. Over time, the phytoplankton community acclimated to high CO2 conditions, showing a down-regulation of carbon concentrating mechanisms (CCMs) and likely adjusting other intracellular processes. Bacterial abundance initially increased in CO2 treatments  ≥ 953 µatm (days 3–5), yet gross bacterial production (GBP14C) remained unchanged and cell-specific bacterial productivity (csBP14C) was reduced. Towards the end of the experiment, GBP14C and csBP14C markedly increased across all treatments regardless of CO2 availability. This coincided with increased organic matter availability (POC and PON) combined with improved efficiency of carbon uptake. Changes in phytoplankton community production could have negative effects on the Antarctic food web and the biological pump, resulting in negative feedbacks on anthropogenic CO2 uptake. Increases in bacterial abundance under high CO2 conditions may also increase the efficiency of the microbial loop, resulting in increased organic matter remineralisation and further declines in carbon sequestration.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification of a coastal Antarctic marine microbial community reveals a critical threshold for CO2 tolerance in phytoplankton productivity (update)’

Distribution of planktonic biogenic carbonate organisms in the Southern Ocean south of Australia: a baseline for ocean acidification impact assessment (update)

The Southern Ocean provides a vital service by absorbing about one-sixth of humankind’s annual emissions of CO2. This comes with a cost – an increase in ocean acidity that is expected to have negative impacts on ocean ecosystems. The reduced ability of phytoplankton and zooplankton to precipitate carbonate shells is a clearly identified risk. The impact depends on the significance of these organisms in Southern Ocean ecosystems, but there is very little information on their abundance or distribution. To quantify their presence, we used coulometric measurement of particulate inorganic carbonate (PIC) on particles filtered from surface seawater into two size fractions: 50–1000 µm to capture foraminifera (the most important biogenic carbonate-forming zooplankton) and 1–50 µm to capture coccolithophores (the most important biogenic carbonate-forming phytoplankton). Ancillary measurements of biogenic silica (BSi) and particulate organic carbon (POC) provided context, as estimates of the biomass of diatoms (the highest biomass phytoplankton in polar waters) and total microbial biomass, respectively. Results for nine transects from Australia to Antarctica in 2008–2015 showed low levels of PIC compared to Northern Hemisphere polar waters. Coccolithophores slightly exceeded the biomass of diatoms in subantarctic waters, but their abundance decreased more than 30-fold poleward, while diatom abundances increased, so that on a molar basis PIC was only 1 % of BSi in Antarctic waters. This limited importance of coccolithophores in the Southern Ocean is further emphasized in terms of their associated POC, representing less than 1 % of total POC in Antarctic waters and less than 10 % in subantarctic waters. NASA satellite ocean-colour-based PIC estimates were in reasonable agreement with the shipboard results in subantarctic waters but greatly overestimated PIC in Antarctic waters. Contrastingly, the NASA Ocean Biogeochemical Model (NOBM) shows coccolithophores as overly restricted to subtropical and northern subantarctic waters. The cause of the strong southward decrease in PIC abundance in the Southern Ocean is not yet clear. The poleward decrease in pH is small, and while calcite saturation decreases strongly southward, it remains well above saturation ( > 2). Nitrate and phosphate variations would predict a poleward increase. Temperature and competition with diatoms for limiting iron appear likely to be important. While the future trajectory of coccolithophore distributions remains uncertain, their current low abundances suggest small impacts on overall Southern Ocean pelagic ecology.

Continue reading ‘Distribution of planktonic biogenic carbonate organisms in the Southern Ocean south of Australia: a baseline for ocean acidification impact assessment (update)’

Past and future evolution of the carbonate system in a coastal zone of the Northern Antarctic Peninsula


• Anthropogenic carbon concentrations are estimated within the mixed layer using three different methods.
• There is a large increasing rate of anthropogenic carbon penetration in the deep waters.
• Undersaturated aragonite saturation state at sea surface could be reached before year 2060.
• An alternative method for calculating anthropogenic carbon is purposed for regions with low carbonate system datasets.


It is arduous to gather a good spatial and temporal dataset of marine carbonate properties, especially in the Southern Ocean. In this study, we have reconstructed the carbonate system in the Gerlache Strait, a coastal zone of the Northern Antarctic Peninsula. We also analyzed the impact of ocean acidification by calculating the tipping points of the calcium carbonate saturation states and pH (i.e., when saturation state and pH goes below one and 7, respectively). Hydrographic and carbonate data from three distinct data sets (GOAL – 2013 to 2016, FRUELA – 1996, and World Ocean Database – 1965 to 2004) have been joined and used to reconstruct the carbonate system from the past 50 years. Temporal annual mean trends were determined depending on the water column depth-layer. The northern Gerlache Strait showed a significant increasing trend of CT concentrations (1.0024 ± 0.34 µmol kg–1) and related pH decreasing trend (–0.0026 ± 0.0009 sws) in the surface mixed layer (> 60 m). The properties variability is relatively different (magnitudes and signs) between the northern and southern sectors of the Gerlache Strait, which indicate that adjacent regions to the Gerlache Strait to the southwest and north, respectively, may major influence the regional carbonate dynamics. Results also show that episodic under-saturation conditions, in relation to aragonite within the surface mixed layer, may already occur, especially in regions close to large glaciers.

Continue reading ‘Past and future evolution of the carbonate system in a coastal zone of the Northern Antarctic Peninsula’

Individual and interactive effects of warming and CO2 on Pseudo-nitzschia subcurvata and Phaeocystis antarctica, two dominant phytoplankton from the Ross Sea, Antarctica (update)

We investigated the effects of temperature and CO2 variation on the growth and elemental composition of cultures of the diatom Pseudo-nitzschia subcurvata and the prymnesiophyte Phaeocystis antarctica, two ecologically dominant phytoplankton species isolated from the Ross Sea, Antarctica. To obtain thermal functional response curves, cultures were grown across a range of temperatures from 0 to 14 °C. In addition, a co-culturing experiment examined the relative abundance of both species at 0 and 6 °C. CO2 functional response curves were conducted from 100 to 1730 ppm at 2 and 8 °C to test for interactive effects between the two variables. The growth of both phytoplankton was significantly affected by temperature increase, but with different trends. Growth rates of P. subcurvata increased with temperature from 0 °C to maximum levels at 8 °C, while the growth rates of P. antarctica only increased from 0 to 2 °C. The maximum thermal limits of P. subcurvata and P. antarctica where growth stopped completely were 14 and 10 °C, respectively. Although P. subcurvata outgrew P. antarctica at both temperatures in the co-incubation experiment, this happened much faster at 6 than at 0 °C. For P. subcurvata, there was a significant interactive effect in which the warmer temperature decreased the CO2 half-saturation constant for growth, but this was not the case for P. antarctica. The growth rates of both species increased with CO2 increases up to 425 ppm, and in contrast to significant effects of temperature, the effects of CO2 increase on their elemental composition were minimal. Our results suggest that future warming may be more favorable to the diatom than to the prymnesiophyte, while CO2 increases may not be a major factor in future competitive interactions between Pseudo-nitzschia subcurvata and Phaeocystis antarctica in the Ross Sea.

Continue reading ‘Individual and interactive effects of warming and CO2 on Pseudo-nitzschia subcurvata and Phaeocystis antarctica, two dominant phytoplankton from the Ross Sea, Antarctica (update)’

Carbon uptake and biogeochemical change in the Southern Ocean, south of Tasmania (update)

Biogeochemical change in the water masses of the Southern Ocean, south of Tasmania, was assessed for the 16-year period between 1995 and 2011 using data from four summer repeats of the WOCE–JGOFS–CLIVAR–GO-SHIP (Key et al., 2015; Olsen et al., 2016) SR03 hydrographic section (at ∼ 140° E). Changes in temperature, salinity, oxygen, and nutrients were used to disentangle the effect of solubility, biology, circulation and anthropogenic carbon (CANT) uptake on the variability of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) for eight water mass layers defined by neutral surfaces (γn). CANT was estimated using an improved back-calculation method. Warming (∼ 0.0352 ± 0.0170 °C yr−1) of Subtropical Central Water (STCW) and Antarctic Surface Water (AASW) layers decreased their gas solubility, and accordingly DIC concentrations increased less rapidly than expected from equilibration with rising atmospheric CO2 (∼ 0.86 ± 0.16 µmol kg−1 yr−1 versus ∼ 1 ± 0.12 µmol kg−1 yr−1). An increase in apparent oxygen utilisation (AOU) occurred in these layers due to either remineralisation of organic matter or intensification of upwelling. The range of estimates for the increases in CANT were 0.71 ± 0.08 to 0.93 ± 0.08 µmol kg−1 yr−1 for STCW and 0.35 ± 0.14 to 0.65 ±  0.21 µmol kg−1 yr−1 for AASW, with the lower values in each water mass obtained by assigning all the AOU change to remineralisation. DIC increases in the Sub-Antarctic Mode Water (SAMW, 1.10 ± 0.14 µmol kg−1 yr−1) and Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW, 0.40 ± 0.15 µmol kg−1 yr−1) layers were similar to the calculated CANT trends. For SAMW, the CANT increase tracked rising atmospheric CO2. As a consequence of the general DIC increase, decreases in total pH (pHT) and aragonite saturation (ΩAr) were found in most water masses, with the upper ocean and the SAMW layer presenting the largest trends for pHT decrease (∼ −0.0031 ± 0.0004 yr−1). DIC increases in deep and bottom layers (∼ 0.24 ± 0.04 µmol kg−1 yr−1) resulted from the advection of old deep waters to resupply increased upwelling, as corroborated by increasing silicate (∼ 0.21 ± 0.07 µmol kg−1 yr−1), which also reached the upper layers near the Antarctic Divergence (∼ 0.36 ± 0.06 µmol kg−1 yr−1) and was accompanied by an increase in salinity. The observed changes in DIC over the 16-year span caused a shoaling (∼ 340 m) of the aragonite saturation depth (ASD, ΩAr =  1) within Upper Circumpolar Deep Water that followed the upwelling path of this layer. From all our results, we conclude a scenario of increased transport of deep waters into the section and enhanced upwelling at high latitudes for the period between 1995 and 2011 linked to strong westerly winds. Although enhanced upwelling lowered the capacity of the AASW layer to uptake atmospheric CO2, it did not limit that of the newly forming SAMW and AAIW, which exhibited CANT storage rates (∼ 0.41 ± 0.20 mol m−2 yr−1) twice that of the upper layers.

Continue reading ‘Carbon uptake and biogeochemical change in the Southern Ocean, south of Tasmania (update)’

Ocean acidification impacts primary and bacterial production in Antarctic coastal waters during austral summer


• Elevated CO2 decreased primary productivity and gross primary production.
• Elevated CO2 decreased bacterial productivity but increased bacterial production.
• Increased bacterial production was associated with reduced grazing pressure.
• Elevated CO2 decreased net community production when nitrate was available.
• Under nitrate limitation net community production responses to CO2 were suppressed.


Polar waters may be highly impacted by ocean acidification (OA) due to increased solubility of CO2 at colder water temperatures. Three experiments examining the influence of OA on primary and bacterial production were conducted during austral summer at Davis Station, East Antarctica (68°35′ S, 77°58′ E). For each experiment, six minicosm tanks (650 L) were filled with 200 μm filtered coastal seawater containing natural communities of Antarctic marine microbes. Assemblages were incubated for 10 to 12 days at CO2 concentrations ranging from pre-industrial to post-2300. Primary and bacterial production rates were determined using NaH14CO3 and 14C-leucine, respectively. Net community production (NCP) was also determined using dissolved oxygen. In all experiments, maximum photosynthetic rates (Pmax, mg C mg chl a− 1 h− 1) decreased with elevated CO2, clearly reducing rates of total gross primary production (mg C L− 1 h− 1). Rates of cell-specific bacterial productivity (μg C cell− 1 h− 1) also decreased under elevated CO2, yet total bacterial production (μg C L− 1 h− 1) and cell abundances increased with CO2 over Days 0–4. Initial increases in bacterial production and abundance were associated with fewer heterotrophic nanoflagellates and therefore less grazing pressure. The main changes in primary and bacterial productivity generally occurred at CO2 concentrations > 2 × present day (> 780 ppm), with the same responses occurring regardless of seasonally changing environmental conditions and microbial assemblages. However, NCP varied both within and among experiments, largely due to changing nitrate + nitrite (NOx) availability. At NOx concentrations < 1.5 μM photosynthesis to respiration ratios showed that populations switched from net autotrophy to heterotrophy and CO2 responses were suppressed. Overall, OA may reduce production in Antarctic coastal waters, thereby reducing food availability to higher trophic levels and reducing draw-down of atmospheric CO2, thus forming a positive feedback to climate change. NOX limitation may suppress this OA response but cause a similar decline.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification impacts primary and bacterial production in Antarctic coastal waters during austral summer’

Southern Ocean pteropods at risk from ocean warming and acidification

Early life stages of marine calcifiers are particularly vulnerable to climate change. In the Southern Ocean aragonite undersaturation events and areas of rapid warming already occur and are predicted to increase in extent. Here, we present the first study to successfully hatch the polar pteropod Limacina helicina antarctica and observe the potential impact of exposure to increased temperature and aragonite undersaturation resulting from ocean acidification (OA) on the early life stage survival and shell morphology. High larval mortality (up to 39%) was observed in individuals exposed to perturbed conditions. Warming and OA induced extensive shell malformation and dissolution, respectively, increasing shell fragility. Furthermore, shell growth decreased, with variation between treatments and exposure time. Our results demonstrate that short-term exposure through passing through hotspots of OA and warming poses a serious threat to pteropod recruitment and long-term population viability.

Continue reading ‘Southern Ocean pteropods at risk from ocean warming and acidification’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book