Posts Tagged 'community composition'

CO2 effects on diatoms: a synthesis of more than a decade of ocean acidification experiments with natural communities

Diatoms account for 40 % of marine primary production and are considered to be key players in the biological carbon pump. Ocean acidification (OA) is expected to affect diatoms primarily by changing the availability of CO2 as a substrate for photosynthesis or through altered ecological interactions within the marine food web. Yet, there is little consensus how entire diatom communities will respond to increasing CO2. To address this question, we synthesized the literature from over a decade of OA-experiments with natural diatom communities to uncover: 1) if and how bulk diatom communities respond to elevated CO2; 2) if shifts within the diatom communities could be expected and how they are expressed with respect to taxonomic affiliation and size structure. We found that diatom communities responded to high CO2 in ~60 % of the experiments and in this case more often positively (56 %) than negatively (32 %; 12 % did not report the direction of change). Shifts among different diatom species were observed in 65 % of the experiments. Our synthesis supports the hypothesis that high CO2 particularly favors larger species as 12 out of 13 experiments which investigated cell size found a shift towards larger species. Unraveling winners and losers with respect to taxonomic affiliation was difficult due to a limited database, but there is evidence that the genus Pseudo-nitzschia could be among the losers. We conclude that OA-induced changes in diatom competitiveness and assemblage structure must be classified as a “risk for ecosystem services” due to the pivotal role diatoms play in trophic transfer and biogeochemical cycles.

Continue reading ‘CO2 effects on diatoms: a synthesis of more than a decade of ocean acidification experiments with natural communities’

In situ response of Antarctic under-ice primary producers to experimentally altered pH

Elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations are contributing to ocean acidification (reduced seawater pH and carbonate concentrations), with potentially major ramifications for marine ecosystems and their functioning. Using a novel in situ experiment we examined impacts of reduced seawater pH on Antarctic sea ice-associated microalgal communities, key primary producers and contributors to food webs. pH levels projected for the following decades-to-end of century (7.86, 7.75, 7.61), and ambient levels (7.99), were maintained for 15 d in under-ice incubation chambers. Light, temperature and dissolved oxygen within the chambers were logged to track diurnal variation, with pH, O2, salinity and nutrients assessed daily. Uptake of CO2 occurred in all treatments, with pH levels significantly elevated in the two extreme treatments. At the lowest pH, despite the utilisation of CO2 by the productive microalgae, pH did not return to ambient levels and carbonate saturation states remained low; a potential concern for organisms utilising this under-ice habitat. However, microalgal community biomass and composition were not significantly affected and only modest productivity increases were noted, suggesting subtle or slightly positive effects on under-ice algae. This in situ information enables assessment of the influence of future ocean acidification on under-ice community characteristics in a key coastal Antarctic habitat.

Continue reading ‘In situ response of Antarctic under-ice primary producers to experimentally altered pH’

Ocean acidification regulates the activity, community structure and functional potential of heterotrophic bacterioplankton in an oligotrophic gyre

Ocean acidification (OA), a consequence of increased global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, is considered a major threat to marine ecosystems. Its effects on bacterioplankton activity, diversity and community composition have received considerable attention. However, the direct impact of OA on heterotrophic bacterioplankton is often masked by the significant response of phytoplankton due to the close coupling of heterotrophic bacterioplankton and autotrophs. Here, we investigated the responses of a heterotrophic bacterioplankton assemblage to high pCO2 (790 ppm) treatment in warm tropical western Pacific waters by conducting a microcosm experiment in dark for 12 days. Heterotrophic bacterioplankton abundance and production were enhanced by OA over the first 6 days of incubation, while the diversity and species richness were negatively affected. Bacterioplankton community composition in the high pCO2 treatment changed faster than that in the control. The molecular ecological network analysis showed that the elevated CO2changed the overall connections among the bacterial community and resulted in a simple network under high CO2 condition. Species‐specific responses to OA were observed and could be attributed to the different life strategies and to the ability of a given species to adapt to environmental conditions. In addition, high‐throughput functional gene array analysis revealed that genes related to carbon and nitrogen cycling were positively affected by acidification. Together, our findings suggest that OA has direct effects on heterotrophic bacterioplankton in a low‐latitude warm ocean and may therefore affect global biogeochemical cycles.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification regulates the activity, community structure and functional potential of heterotrophic bacterioplankton in an oligotrophic gyre’

Impact of ocean acidification and high solar radiation on productivity and species composition of a late summer phytoplankton community of the coastal Western Antarctic Peninsula

The Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), one of the most productive regions of the Southern Ocean, is currently undergoing rapid environmental changes such as ocean acidification (OA) and increased daily irradiances from enhanced surface‐water stratification. To assess the potential for future biological CO2 sequestration of this region, we incubated a natural phytoplankton assemblage from Ryder Bay, WAP, under a range of pCO2 levels (180 μatm, 450 μatm, and 1000 μatm) combined with either moderate or high natural solar radiation (MSR: 124 μmol photons m−2 s−1 and HSR: 435 μmol photons m−2 s−1, respectively). The initial and final phytoplankton communities were numerically dominated by the prymnesiophyte Phaeocystis antarctica, with the single cells initially being predominant and solitary and colonial cells reaching similar high abundances by the end. Only when communities were grown under ambient pCO2 in conjunction with HSR did the small diatom Fragilariopsis pseudonana outcompete P. antarctica at the end of the experiment. Such positive light‐dependent growth response of the diatom was, however, dampened by OA. These changes in community composition were caused by an enhanced photosensitivity of diatoms, especially F. pseudonana, under OA and HSR, reducing thereby their competitiveness toward P. antarctica. Moreover, community primary production (PP) of all treatments yielded similar high rates at the start and the end of the experiment, but with the main contributors shifting from initially large to small cells toward the end. Even though community PP of Ryder Bay phytoplankton was insensitive to the changes in light and CO2 availability, the observed size‐dependent shift in productivity could, however, weaken the biological CO2 sequestration potential of this region in the future.

Continue reading ‘Impact of ocean acidification and high solar radiation on productivity and species composition of a late summer phytoplankton community of the coastal Western Antarctic Peninsula’

Effects of elevated CO2 on a natural diatom community in the subtropical NE Atlantic

Diatoms are silicifying phytoplankton contributing about one quarter to primary production on Earth. Ocean acidification (OA) could alter the competitiveness of diatoms relative to other taxa and/or lead to shifts among diatom species. In spring 2016, we set up a plankton community experiment at the coast of Gran Canaria (Canary Islands, Spain) to investigate the response of subtropical diatom assemblages to elevated seawater pCO2. Therefore, natural plankton communities were enclosed for 32 days in in situ mesocosms (∼8 m3 volume) with a pCO2 gradient ranging from 380 to 1140 μatm. Halfway through the study we added nutrients to all mesocosms (N, P, Si) to simulate injections through eddy-induced upwelling which frequently occurs in the region. We found that the total diatom biomass remained unaffected during oligotrophic conditions but was significantly positively affected by high CO2 after nutrient enrichment. The average cell volume and carbon content of the diatom community increased with CO2. CO2 effects on diatom biomass and species composition were weak during oligotrophic conditions but became quite strong above ∼620 μatm after the nutrient enrichment. We hypothesize that the proliferation of diatoms under high CO2 may have been caused by a fertilization effect on photosynthesis in combination with reduced grazing pressure. Our results suggest that OA in the subtropics may strengthen the competitiveness of (large) diatoms and cause changes in diatom community composition, mostly under conditions when nutrients are injected into oligotrophic systems.

Continue reading ‘Effects of elevated CO2 on a natural diatom community in the subtropical NE Atlantic’

In-situ behavioural and physiological responses of Antarctic microphytobenthos to ocean acidification

Ocean acidification (OA) is predicted to alter benthic marine community structure and function, however, there is a paucity of field experiments in benthic soft sediment communities and ecosystems. Benthic diatoms are important components of Antarctic coastal ecosystems, however very little is known of how they will respond to ocean acidification. Ocean acidification conditions were maintained by incremental computer controlled addition of high fCO2 seawater representing OA conditions predicted for the year 2100. Respiration chambers and PAM fluorescence techniques were used to investigate acute behavioural, photosynthetic and net production responses of benthic microalgae communities to OA in in-situ field experiments. We demonstrate how OA can modify behavioural ecology, which changes photo-physiology and net production of benthic microalgae. Ocean acidification treatments significantly altered behavioural ecology, which in turn altered photo-physiology. The ecological trends presented here have the potential to manifest into significant ecological change over longer time periods.

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Combined effects of ocean acidification and increased light intensity on natural phytoplankton communities from two Southern Ocean water masses

The composition of phytoplankton communities plays a major role in the efficiency of the biological carbon pump and energy transfer to higher trophic levels. Phytoplankton community composition can be significantly affected by changes in environmental conditions. We investigated the effect of increased pCO2 and light intensity on natural communities from two Southern Ocean water masses, the Subtropical Frontal Zone (STFZ) and Subantarctic Surface Waters (SASW). The community in both experiments shifted to predominately dinoflagellates under high pCO2 and high light and the community composition was significantly different between both treatments at the end of the incubation. In the STFZ assemblage, the combination of increased light and pCO2 had a small positive effect on diatom, coccolithophores and picoeukaryote abundance at the beginning of the experiment while higher pCO2 alone had no or a negative effect. In the SASW assemblage, the combination of increased light and pCO2 had a negative effect on diatom abundance while lower pH/higher pCO2 alone resulted in an increase in diatom counts compared to the control. Coccolithophores grew only in the control treatment. Our results show that there are taxon-specific and locality specific differences in natural phytoplankton community responses to increased light and pCO2 within low nutrient regions.

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