Posts Tagged 'community composition'

Influence of ocean acidification and deep water upwelling on oligotrophic plankton communities in the subtropical North Atlantic: Insights from an in situ mesocosm study

Oceanic uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) causes pronounced shifts in marine carbonate chemistry and a decrease in seawater pH. Increasing evidence indicates that these changes – summarized by the term ocean acidification (OA) – can significantly affect marine food webs and biogeochemical cycles. However, current scientific knowledge is largely based on laboratory experiments with single species and artificial boundary conditions, whereas studies of natural plankton communities are still relatively rare. Moreover, the few existing community-level studies were mostly conducted in rather eutrophic environments, while less attention has been paid to oligotrophic systems such as the subtropical ocean gyres.

Here we report from a recent in situ mesocosm experiment off the coast of Gran Canaria in the eastern subtropical North Atlantic, where we investigated the influence of OA on the ecology and biogeochemistry of plankton communities in oligotrophic waters under close-to-natural conditions. This paper is the first in this Research Topic of Frontiers in Marine Biogeochemistry and provides (1) a detailed overview of the experimental design and important events during our mesocosm campaign, and (2) first insights into the ecological responses of plankton communities to simulated OA over the course of the 62-day experiment.

One particular scientific objective of our mesocosm experiment was to investigate how OA impacts might differ between oligotrophic conditions and phases of high biological productivity, which regularly occur in response to upwelling of nutrient-rich deep water in the study region. Therefore, we specifically developed a deep water collection system that allowed us to obtain ~85 m3 of seawater from ~650 m depth. Thereby, we replaced ~20% of each mesocosm’s volume with deep water, and thus successfully simulated a deep water upwelling event that induced a pronounced plankton bloom.

Our study revealed significant effects of OA on the entire food web, leading to a restructuring of plankton communities that emerged during the oligotrophic phase, and was further amplified during the bloom that developed in response to deep water addition. Such CO2-related shifts in plankton community composition could have consequences for ecosystem productivity, biomass transfer to higher trophic levels, and biogeochemical element cycling of oligotrophic ocean regions.

Continue reading ‘Influence of ocean acidification and deep water upwelling on oligotrophic plankton communities in the subtropical North Atlantic: Insights from an in situ mesocosm study’

Phytoplankton blooms at increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide: experimental evidence for negative effects on prymnesiophytes and positive on small picoeukaryotes

Anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and the ongoing accumulation in the surface ocean together with concomitantly decreasing pH and calcium carbonate saturation states have the potential to impact phytoplankton community composition and therefore biogeochemical element cycling on a global scale. Here we report on a recent mesocosm CO2 perturbation study (Raunefjorden, Norway), with a focus on organic matter and phytoplankton dynamics. Cell numbers of three phytoplankton groups were particularly affected by increasing levels of seawater CO2 throughout the entire experiment, with the cyanobacterium Synechococcus and picoeukaryotes (prasinophytes) profiting, and the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi (prymnesiophyte) being negatively impacted. Combining these results with other phytoplankton community CO2 experiments into a data-set of global coverage suggests that, whenever CO2 effects are found, prymnesiophyte (coccolithophore) abundances are negatively affected, while the opposite holds true for small picoeukaryotes belonging to the class of prasinophytes, or the division of chlorophytes in general. Future reductions in calcium carbonate-producing coccolithophores, providing ballast which accelerates the sinking of particulate organic matter, together with increases in picoeukaryotes, an important component of the microbial loop in the euphotic zone, have the potential to impact marine export production, with feedbacks to Earth’s climate system.

Continue reading ‘Phytoplankton blooms at increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide: experimental evidence for negative effects on prymnesiophytes and positive on small picoeukaryotes’

Contrasting microbial community changes during mass extinctions at the Middle/Late Permian and Permian/Triassic boundaries

Microbial communities are known to expand as a result of environmental deterioration during mass extinctions, but differences in microbial community changes between extinction events and their underlying causes have received little study to date. Here, we present a systematic investigation of microbial lipid biomarkers spanning ∼20 Myr (Middle Permian to Early Triassic) at Shangsi, South China, to contrast microbial changes associated with the Guadalupian–Lopingian boundary (GLB) and Permian–Triassic boundary (PTB) mass extinctions. High-resolution analysis of the PTB crisis interval reveals a distinct succession of microbial communities based on secular variation in moretanes, 2-methylhopanes, aryl isoprenoids, steranes, n-alkyl cyclohexanes, and other biomarkers. The first episode of the PTB mass extinction (ME1) was associated with increases in red algae and nitrogen-fixing bacteria along with evidence for enhanced wildfires and elevated soil erosion, whereas the second episode was associated with expansions of green sulfur bacteria, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and acritarchs coinciding with climatic hyperwarming, ocean stratification, and seawater acidification. This pattern of microbial community change suggests that marine environmental deterioration was greater during the second extinction episode (ME2). The GLB shows more limited changes in microbial community composition and more limited environmental deterioration than the PTB, consistent with differences in species-level extinction rates (∼71% vs. 90%, respectively). Microbial biomarker records have the potential to refine our understanding of the nature of these crises and to provide insights concerning possible outcomes of present-day anthropogenic stresses on Earth’s ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Contrasting microbial community changes during mass extinctions at the Middle/Late Permian and Permian/Triassic boundaries’

pCO2 effects on species composition and growth of an estuarine phytoplankton community

The effects of ongoing changes in ocean carbonate chemistry on plankton ecology have important implications for food webs and biogeochemical cycling. However, conflicting results have emerged regarding species-specific responses to pCO2 enrichment and thus community responses have been difficult to predict. To assess community level effects (e.g., production) of altered carbonate chemistry, studies are needed that capitalize on the benefits of controlled experiments but also retain features of intact ecosystems that may exacerbate or ameliorate the effects observed in single-species or single cohort experiments. We performed incubations of natural plankton communities from Narragansett Bay, RI, USA in winter at ambient bay temperatures (5–13 °C), light and nutrient concentrations under three levels of controlled and constant CO2 concentrations, simulating past, present and future conditions at mean pCO2 levels of 224, 361, and 724 μatm respectively. Samples for carbonate analysis, chlorophyll a, plankton size-abundance, and plankton species composition were collected daily and phytoplankton growth rates in three different size fractions (<5, 5–20, and >20 μm) were measured at the end of the 7-day incubation period. Community composition changed during the incubation period with major increases in relative diatom abundance, which were similar across pCO2 treatments. At the end of the experiment, 24-hr growth responses to pCO2 levels varied as a function of cell size. The smallest size fraction (<5 μm) grew faster at the elevated pCO2 level. In contrast, the 5–20 μm size fraction grew fastest in the Present treatment and there were no significant differences in growth rate among treatments in the >20 μm size fraction. Cell size distribution shifted toward smaller cells in both the Past and Future treatments but remained unchanged in the Present treatment. Similarity in Past and Future treatments for cell size distribution and growth rate (5–20 μm size fraction) illustrate non-monotonic effects of increasing pCO2 on ecological indicators and may be related to opposing physiological effects of high CO2 and low pH both within and among species. Interaction of these effects with other factors (e.g., nutrients, light, temperature, grazing, initial species composition) may explain variability among published studies. The absence of clear treatment-specific effects at the community level suggest that extrapolation of species-specific responses or experiments with only present day and future pCO2 treatments levels would produce misleading predictions of ocean acidification impacts on plankton production.

Continue reading ‘pCO2 effects on species composition and growth of an estuarine phytoplankton community’

Acidification and warming affect prominent bacteria in two seasonal phytoplankton bloom mesocosms

In contrast to clear stimulatory effects of rising temperature, recent studies of the effects of CO2 on planktonic bacteria have reported conflicting results. To better understand the potential impact of predicted climate scenarios on the development and performance of bacterial communities, we performed bifactorial mesocosm experiments (pCO2 and temperature) with Baltic Sea water, during a diatom dominated bloom in autumn and a mixed phytoplankton bloom in summer. The development of bacterial community composition (BCC) followed well-known algal bloom dynamics. A principal coordinate analysis (PCoA) of bacterial OTUs (operational taxonomic units) revealed that phytoplankton succession and temperature were the major variables structuring the bacterial community whereas the impact of pCO2 was weak. Prokaryotic abundance and carbon production, and organic matter concentration and composition were partly affected by temperature but not by increased pCO2. However, pCO2 did have significant and potentially direct effects on the relative abundance of several dominant OTUs; in some cases, these effects were accompanied by an antagonistic impact of temperature. Our results suggest the necessity of high-resolution BCC analyses and statistical analyses at the OTU level to detect the strong impact of CO2 on specific bacterial groups, which in turn might also influence specific organic matter degradation processes.

Continue reading ‘Acidification and warming affect prominent bacteria in two seasonal phytoplankton bloom mesocosms’

Special edition of Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science – “Ocean acidification in the Mediterranean Sea: pelagic mesocosm experiments”

The topic of ocean acidification has received extensive attention in a recently published special edition of the journal Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. Volume 186, Part A presents a series of 12 research papers focusing on pelagic mesocosm experiments conducted in the Mediterranean Sea in 2012 and 2013. Plankton plays a key role in the global carbon cycle. It is therefore important to project the evolution of plankton community structure and function in a future high-CO2 world. Several results from experiments conducted at the community level have shown increased rates of community primary production and shifts in community composition as a function of increasing pCO2. However, the great majority of these – experiments have been performed under high natural or nutrient-enriched conditions and very few data are available in areas with naturally low levels of nutrient and chlorophyll i.e. oligotrophic areas such as the Mediterranean Sea, although they represent a large and expanding part of the ocean surface. In the frame of the European Mediterranean Sea Acidification in a changing climate project (MedSeA; http://medsea-project.eu), large-scale in situ mesocosms (9 x 50 m3, 12 m deep) have been used to quantify the potential effects of CO2 enrichment in two coastal areas of the Mediterranean Sea: the bay of Calvi (Corsica, France) in June/July 2012 and the bay of Villefranche (France) in February/March 2013. These two experiments gathered the expertise of more than 25 scientists from 7 institutes and 6 countries (France, Greece, Spain, UK, Italy, Belgium, US).

Continue reading ‘Special edition of Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science – “Ocean acidification in the Mediterranean Sea: pelagic mesocosm experiments”’

Influence of ocean acidification on plankton community structure during a winter-to-summer succession: An imaging approach indicates that copepods can benefit from elevated CO2 via indirect food web effects

Plankton communities play a key role in the marine food web and are expected to be highly sensitive to ongoing environmental change. Oceanic uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) causes pronounced shifts in marine carbonate chemistry and a decrease in seawater pH. These changes–summarized by the term ocean acidification (OA)–can significantly affect the physiology of planktonic organisms. However, studies on the response of entire plankton communities to OA, which also include indirect effects via food-web interactions, are still relatively rare. Thus, it is presently unclear how OA could affect the functioning of entire ecosystems and biogeochemical element cycles. In this study, we report from a long-term in situ mesocosm experiment, where we investigated the response of natural plankton communities in temperate waters (Gullmarfjord, Sweden) to elevated CO2 concentrations and OA as expected for the end of the century (~760 μatm pCO2). Based on a plankton-imaging approach, we examined size structure, community composition and food web characteristics of the whole plankton assemblage, ranging from picoplankton to mesozooplankton, during an entire winter-to-summer succession. The plankton imaging system revealed pronounced temporal changes in the size structure of the copepod community over the course of the plankton bloom. The observed shift towards smaller individuals resulted in an overall decrease of copepod biomass by 25%, despite increasing numerical abundances. Furthermore, we observed distinct effects of elevated CO2 on biomass and size structure of the entire plankton community. Notably, the biomass of copepods, dominated by Pseudocalanus acuspes, displayed a tendency towards elevated biomass by up to 30–40% under simulated ocean acidification. This effect was significant for certain copepod size classes and was most likely driven by CO2-stimulated responses of primary producers and a complex interplay of trophic interactions that allowed this CO2 effect to propagate up the food web. Such OA-induced shifts in plankton community structure could have far-reaching consequences for food-web interactions, biomass transfer to higher trophic levels and biogeochemical cycling of marine ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Influence of ocean acidification on plankton community structure during a winter-to-summer succession: An imaging approach indicates that copepods can benefit from elevated CO2 via indirect food web effects’


Subscribe to the RSS feed

Powered by FeedBurner

Follow AnneMarin on Twitter

Blog Stats

  • 985,201 hits

OA-ICC HIGHLIGHTS

Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book