Posts Tagged 'Antarctic'

Southern Ocean phytoplankton in a changing climate

Phytoplankton are the base of the Antarctic food web, sustain the wealth and diversity of life for which Antarctica is renowned, and play a critical role in biogeochemical cycles that mediate global climate. Over the vast expanse of the Southern Ocean (SO), the climate is variously predicted to experience increased warming, strengthening wind, acidification, shallowing mixed layer depths, increased light (and UV), changes in upwelling and nutrient replenishment, declining sea ice, reduced salinity, and the southward migration of ocean fronts. These changes are expected to alter the structure and function of phytoplankton communities in the SO. The diverse environments contained within the vast expanse of the SO will be impacted differently by climate change; causing the identity and the magnitude of environmental factors driving biotic change to vary within and among bioregions. Predicting the net effect of multiple climate-induced stressors over a range of environments is complex. Yet understanding the response of SO phytoplankton to climate change is vital if we are to predict the future state/s of the ecosystem, estimate the impacts on fisheries and endangered species, and accurately predict the effects of physical and biotic change in the SO on global climate. This review looks at the major environmental factors that define the structure and function of phytoplankton communities in the SO, examines the forecast changes in the SO environment, predicts the likely effect of these changes on phytoplankton, and considers the ramifications for trophodynamics and feedbacks to global climate change. Predictions strongly suggest that all regions of the SO will experience changes in phytoplankton productivity and community composition with climate change. The nature, and even the sign, of these changes varies within and among regions and will depend upon the magnitude and sequence in which these environmental changes are imposed. It is likely that predicted changes to phytoplankton communities will affect SO biogeochemistry, carbon export, and nutrition for higher trophic levels.

Continue reading ‘Southern Ocean phytoplankton in a changing climate’

KrillDB: A de novo transcriptome database for the Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba)

Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) is a key species in the Southern Ocean with an estimated biomass between 100 and 500 million tonnes. Changes in krill population viability would have catastrophic effect on the Antarctic ecosystem. One looming threat due to elevated levels of anthropogenic atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is ocean acidification (lowering of sea water pH by CO2 dissolving into the oceans). The genetics of Antarctic krill has long been of scientific interest for both for the analysis of population structure and analysis of functional genetics. However, the genetic resources available for the species are relatively modest. We have developed the most advanced genetic database on Euphausia superba, KrillDB, which includes comprehensive data sets of former and present transcriptome projects. In particular, we have built a de novo transcriptome assembly using more than 360 million Illumina sequence reads generated from larval krill including individuals subjected to different CO2 levels. The database gives access to: 1) the full list of assembled genes and transcripts; 2) their level of similarity to transcripts and proteins from other species; 3) the predicted protein domains contained within each transcript; 4) their predicted GO terms; 5) the level of expression of each transcript in the different larval stages and CO2 treatments. All references to external entities (sequences, domains, GO terms) are equipped with a link to the appropriate source database. Moreover, the software implements a full-text search engine that makes it possible to submit free-form queries. KrillDB represents the first large-scale attempt at classifying and annotating the full krill transcriptome. For this reason, we believe it will constitute a cornerstone of future approaches devoted to physiological and molecular study of this key species in the Southern Ocean food web.

Continue reading ‘KrillDB: A de novo transcriptome database for the Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba)’

Evolutionary genomics of the cold-adapted diatom Fragilariopsis cylindrus

The Southern Ocean houses a diverse and productive community of organisms. Unicellular eukaryotic diatoms are the main primary producers in this environment, where photosynthesis is limited by low concentrations of dissolved iron and large seasonal fluctuations in light, temperature and the extent of sea ice. How diatoms have adapted to this extreme environment is largely unknown. Here we present insights into the genome evolution of a cold-adapted diatom from the Southern Ocean, Fragilariopsis cylindrus, based on a comparison with temperate diatoms. We find that approximately 24.7 per cent of the diploid F. cylindrus genome consists of genetic loci with alleles that are highly divergent (15.1 megabases of the total genome size of 61.1 megabases). These divergent alleles were differentially expressed across environmental conditions, including darkness, low iron, freezing, elevated temperature and increased CO2. Alleles with the largest ratio of non-synonymous to synonymous nucleotide substitutions also show the most pronounced condition-dependent expression, suggesting a correlation between diversifying selection and allelic differentiation. Divergent alleles may be involved in adaptation to environmental fluctuations in the Southern Ocean.

Continue reading ‘Evolutionary genomics of the cold-adapted diatom Fragilariopsis cylindrus’

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

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 °C to 14 °C. In addition, a competition experiment examined the relative abundance of both species at 0 °C and 6 °C. CO2 functional response curves were conducted from 100 to 1730 ppm at 2 °C 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 °C to 2 °C. The maximum thermal limits of P. subcurvata and P. antarctica where growth stopped completely were 14 °C and 10 °C, respectively. Although P. subcurvata outcompeted P. antarctica at both temperatures in the competition experiment, this happened much faster at 6 °C 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 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’

Ocean acidification and calcium carbonate saturation states in the coastal zone of the West Antarctic Peninsula

The polar oceans are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification; the lowering of seawater pH and carbonate mineral saturation states due to uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). High spatial variability in surface water pH and saturation states (Ω) for two biologically-important calcium carbonate minerals calcite and aragonite was observed in Ryder Bay, in the coastal sea-ice zone of the West Antarctic Peninsula. Glacial meltwater and melting sea ice stratified the water column and facilitated the development of large phytoplankton blooms and subsequent strong uptake of atmospheric CO2 of up to 55 mmol m-2 day-1 during austral summer. Concurrent high pH (8.48) and calcium carbonate mineral supersaturation (Ωaragonite ~3.1) occurred in the meltwater-influenced surface ocean. Biologically-induced increases in calcium carbonate mineral saturation states counteracted any effects of carbonate ion dilution. Accumulation of CO2 through remineralisation of additional organic matter from productive coastal waters lowered the pH (7.84) and caused deep-water corrosivity (Ωaragonite ~0.9) in regions impacted by Circumpolar Deep Water. Episodic mixing events enabled CO2-rich subsurface water to become entrained into the surface and eroded seasonal stratification to lower surface water pH (8.21) and saturation states (Ωaragonite ~1.8) relative to all surface waters across Ryder Bay. Uptake of atmospheric CO2 of 28 mmol m-2 day-1 in regions of vertical mixing may enhance the susceptibility of the surface layer to future ocean acidification in dynamic coastal environments. Spatially-resolved studies are essential to elucidate the natural variability in carbonate chemistry in order to better understand and predict carbon cycling and the response of marine organisms to future ocean acidification in the Antarctic coastal zone.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification and calcium carbonate saturation states in the coastal zone of the West Antarctic Peninsula’

Two Southern Ocean diatoms are more sensitive to ocean acidification and changes in irradiance than the prymnesiophyte Phaeocystis antarctica

To better understand the impact of ocean acidification (OA) and changes in light availability on Southern Ocean phytoplankton physiology, we investigated the effects of pCO2 (380 and 800 µatm) in combination with low and high irradiance (20 or 50 and 200 µmol photons m−2 s−1) on growth, particulate organic carbon (POC) fixation and photophysiology in the three ecologically relevant species Chaetoceros debilis, Fragilariopsis kerguelensis and Phaeocystis antarctica. Irrespective of the light scenario, neither growth nor POC per cell was stimulated by OA in any of the tested species and the two diatoms even displayed negative responses in growth (e.g. C. debilis) or POC content (e.g. F. kerguelensis) under OA in conjunction with high light. For both diatoms, also maximum quantum yields of PSII (Fv/Fm) were decreased under these conditions, indicating lowered photochemical efficiencies. To counteract the negative effects by OA and high light, the two diatoms showed diverging photoacclimation strategies. While cellular chlorophyll a and fucoxanthin contents were enhanced in C. debilis to potentially maximize light absorption, F. kerguelensis exhibited reduced chlorophyll a per cell, increased disconnection of antennae from photosystem II reaction centers and strongly lowered absolute electron transport rates (ETR). The decline in ETRs in F. kerguelensis might be explained in terms of different species-specific strategies for tuning the available flux of adenosine triphosphate and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate. Overall, our results revealed that P. antarctica was more tolerant to OA and changes in irradiance than the two diatoms, which may have important implications for biogeochemical cycling.

Continue reading ‘Two Southern Ocean diatoms are more sensitive to ocean acidification and changes in irradiance than the prymnesiophyte Phaeocystis antarctica’

Light intensity modulates the response of two Antarctic diatom species to ocean acidification

It is largely unknown how rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations and changes in the upper mixed layer depth, with its subsequent effects on light availability will affect phytoplankton physiology in the Southern Ocean. Linking seasonal variations in the availability of CO2 and light to abundances and physiological traits of key phytoplankton species could aid to understand their abilities to acclimate to predicted future climatic conditions. To investigate the combined effects of CO2 and light on two ecologically relevant Antarctic diatoms (Fragilariopsis curta and Odontella weisflogii) a matrix of three light intensities (LL=20, ML=200, HL=500 µmol photons m-2 s-1) and three pCO2 levels (low=180, ambient=380, high=1000 µatm) was applied assessing their effects on growth, particulate organic carbon (POC) fixation and photophysiology. Under ambient pCO2, POC production rates were highest already at low light in Fragilariopsis, indicating saturation of photosynthesis, while in Odontella highest rates were only reached at medium irradiances. In both species ocean acidification did not stimulate, but rather inhibited, growth and POC production under low and medium light. This effect was, however, amended under high growth irradiances. Low pCO2 levels inhibited growth and POC production in both species at low and medium light, and further decreased absETRs under high light. Our results suggest that Southern Ocean diatoms were sensitive to changes in pCO2, showing species-specific responses, which were further modulated by light intensity. The two diatom species represent distinct ecotypes and revealed discrete physiological traits that matched their seasonal occurrence with the related physical conditions in Antarctic coastal waters.

Continue reading ‘Light intensity modulates the response of two Antarctic diatom species to ocean acidification’


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