Posts Tagged 'light'

Photosynthesis and calcification of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi are more sensitive to changed levels of light and CO2 under nutrient limitation


  • Nutrient limitation reduced the light intensity for cells to achieve the highest rates of photosynthesis and calcification.
  • Nitrate limitation enhanced calcification rate and phosphate limitation reduced photosynthetic rate.
  • Electron transport rate linearly and positively correlated with rates of photosynthesis and calcification.


Photophysiological responses of phytoplankton to changing multiple environmental drivers are essential in understanding and predicting ecological consequences of ocean climate changes. In this study, we investigated the combined effects of two CO2 levels (410 and 925 μatm) and five light intensities (80 to 480 μmol photons m−2 s−1) on cellular pigments contents, photosynthesis and calcification of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi grown under nutrient replete and limited conditions, respectively. Our results showed that high light intensity, high CO2 level and nitrate limitation acted synergistically to reduce cellular chlorophyll a and carotenoid contents. Nitrate limitation predominantly enhanced calcification rate; phosphate limitation predominantly reduced photosynthetic carbon fixation rate, with larger extent of the reduction under higher levels of CO2 and light. Reduced availability of both nitrate and phosphate under the elevated CO2 concentration decreased saturating light levels for the cells to achieve the maximal relative electron transport rate (rETRmax). Light-saturating levels for rETRmax were lower than that for photosynthetic and calcification rates under the nutrient limitation. Regardless of the culture conditions, rETR under growth light levels correlated linearly and positively with measured photosynthetic and calcification rates. Our findings imply that E. huxleyi cells acclimated to macro-nutrient limitation and elevated CO2 concentration decreased their light requirement to achieve the maximal electron transport, photosynthetic and calcification rates, indicating a photophysiological strategy to cope with CO2 rise/pH drop in shoaled upper mixing layer above the thermocline where the microalgal cells are exposed to increased levels of light and decreased levels of nutrients.

Continue reading ‘Photosynthesis and calcification of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi are more sensitive to changed levels of light and CO2 under nutrient limitation’

Ocean acidification interacts with growth light to suppress CO2 acquisition efficiency and enhance mitochondrial respiration in a coastal diatom


  • Ocean acidification (OA) enhances growth of Thalassiosira weissflogii only at limiting low light levels.
  • The energy saved from down-regulation of CCMs under OA rather than “CO2 fertilization aids in the enhancement under low levels of light energy supply.
  • Coastal diatoms can benefit from OA, especially under cloudy weather or conditions of low solar exposures.


Diatom responses to ocean acidification have been documented with variable and controversial results. We grew the coastal diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii under 410 (LC, pH 8.13) vs 1000 μatm (HC, pH 7.83) pCO2 and at different levels of light (80, 140, 220 μmol photons m−2 s−1), and found that light level alters physiological responses to OA. CO2 concentrating mechanisms (CCMs) were down-regulated in the HC-grown cells across all the light levels, as reflected by lowered activity of the periplasmic carbonic anhydrase and decreased photosynthetic affinity for CO2 or dissolved inorganic carbon. The specific growth rate was, however, enhanced significantly by 9.2% only at the limiting low light level. These results indicate that rather than CO2 “fertilization”, the energy saved from down-regulation of CCMs promoted the growth rate of the diatom when light availability is low, in parallel with enhanced respiration under OA to cope with the acidic stress by providing extra energy.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification interacts with growth light to suppress CO2 acquisition efficiency and enhance mitochondrial respiration in a coastal diatom’

Irradiance, photosynthesis and elevated pCO2 effects on net calcification in tropical reef macroalgae


  • Most species from high-light environments are not able to calcifying under OA at night
  • Low-light species may be more susceptible to OA compared to high-light
  • Some species exhibit light-triggered calcification independent of photosystem II
  • Photosystem II independent calcification not sustained under OA


Calcifying tropical macroalgae produce sediment, build three-dimensional habitats, and provide substrate for invertebrate larvae on reefs. Thus, lower calcification rates under declining pH and increasing ocean pCO2, or ocean acidification, is a concern. In the present study, calcification rates were examined experimentally under predicted end-of-the-century seawater pCO2 (1116 μatm) and pH (7.67) compared to ambient controls (pCO2 409 μatm; pH 8.04). Nine reef macroalgae with diverse calcification locations, calcium carbonate structure, photophysiology, and site-specific irradiance were examined under light and dark conditions. Species included five from a high light patch reef on the Florida Keys Reef Tract (FKRT) and four species from low light reef walls on Little Cayman Island (LCI). Experiments on FKRT and LCI species were conducted at 500 and 50 μmol photons m−2 s−1 in situ irradiance, respectively. Calcification rates independent of photosystem-II (PSII) were also investigated for FKRT species. The most consistent negative effect of elevated pCO2 on calcification rates in the tropical macroalgae examined occurred in the dark. Most species (89%) had net calcification rates of zero or net dissolution in the dark at low pH. Species from the FKRT that sustained positive net calcification rates in the light at low pH also maintained ~30% of their net calcification rates without PSII at ambient pH. However, calcification rates in the light independent of PSII were not sustained at low pH. Regardless of these low pH effects, most FKRT species daily net calcification rates, integrating light/dark rates over a 24h period, were not significantly different between low and ambient pH. This was due to a 10-fold lower dark, compared to light, calcification rate, and a strong correspondence between calcification and photosynthetic rates. Interestingly, low-light species sustained calcification rates on par with high-light species without high rates of photosynthesis. Low-light species’ morphology and physiology that promote high calcification rates at ambient pH, may increase their vulnerability to low pH. Our data indicate that the negative effect of elevated pCO2 and low pH on tropical macroalgae at the organismal level is their impact on dark net calcification, probably enhanced dissolution. However, elevated pCO2 and low pH effects on macroalgae daily calcification rates are greatest in species with lower net calcification rates in the light. Thus, macroalgae able to maintain high calcification rates in the light (high and low irradiance) at low pH, and/or sustain strong biotic control with high [H+] in the bulk seawater, are expected to dominate under global change.

Continue reading ‘Irradiance, photosynthesis and elevated pCO2 effects on net calcification in tropical reef macroalgae’

Diffusive boundary layers and ocean acidification: implications for sea urchin settlement and growth

Chemical changes in the diffusive boundary layer (DBL) generated by photosynthesising macroalgae are expected to play an important role in modulating the effects of ocean acidification (OA), but little is known about the effects on early life stages of marine invertebrates in modified DBLs. Larvae that settle to macroalgal surfaces and remain within the DBL will experience pH conditions markedly different from the bulk seawater. We investigated the interactive effects of seawater pH and DBL thickness on settlement and early post-settlement growth of the sea urchin Pseudechinus huttoni, testing whether coralline-algal DBLs act as an environmental buffer to OA. DBL thickness and pH levels (estimated from well-established relationships with oxygen concentration) above the crustose coralline algal surfaces varied with light availability (with photosynthesis increasing pH to as high as pH 9.0 and respiration reducing pH to as low as pH 7.4 under light and dark conditions, respectively), independent of bulk seawater pH (7.5, 7.7, and 8.1). Settlement success of P. huttoni increased over time for all treatments, irrespective of estimated pH in the DBL. Juvenile test growth was similar in all DBL manipulations, showing resilience to variable and low seawater pH. Spine development, however, displayed greater variance with spine growth being negatively affected by reduced seawater pH in the DBL only in the dark treatments. Scanning electron microscopy revealed no observable differences in structural integrity or morphology of the sea urchin spines among pH treatments. Our results suggest that early juvenile stages of P. huttoni are well adapted to variable pH regimes in the DBL of macroalgae across a range of bulk seawater pH treatments.

Continue reading ‘Diffusive boundary layers and ocean acidification: implications for sea urchin settlement and growth’

Coral-macroalgal competition under ocean warming and acidification


  • Study investigates a common coral-macroalgal interaction under a low end emission scenario.
  • Light calcification is negatively influenced by an interaction of macroalgal contact and scenario.
  • Protein content, zooxanthellae density and Chlorophyll a were enhanced under scenario conditions.
  • Negative impacts of macroalgae on corals were observed, but not enhanced by scenario conditions.
  • More research on the impacts of climate change on the dynamics of coral-algal interactions is needed.


Competition between corals and macroalgae is frequently observed on reefs with the outcome of these interactions affecting the relative abundance of reef organisms and therefore reef health. Anthropogenic activities have resulted in increased atmospheric CO2 levels and a subsequent rise in ocean temperatures. In addition to increasing water temperature, elevated CO2 levels are leading to a decrease in oceanic pH (ocean acidification). These two changes have the potential to alter ecological processes within the oceans, including the outcome of competitive coral-macroalgal interactions. In our study, we explored the combined effect of temperature increase and ocean acidification on the competition between the coral Porites lobata and on the Great Barrier Reef abundant macroalga Chlorodesmis fastigiata. A temperature increase of +1 °C above present temperatures and CO2 increase of +85 ppm were used to simulate a low end emission scenario for the mid- to late 21st century, according to the Representative Concentration Pathway 2.6 (RCP2.6). Our results revealed that the net photosynthesis of P. lobata decreased when it was in contact with C. fastigiata under ambient conditions, and that dark respiration increased under RCP2.6 conditions. The Photosynthesis to Respiration (P:R) ratios of corals as they interacted with macroalgal competitors were not significantly different between scenarios. Dark calcification rates of corals under RCP2.6 conditions, however, were negative and significantly decreased compared to ambient conditions. Light calcification rates were negatively affected by the interaction of macroalgal contact in the RCP2.6 scenario, compared to algal mimics and to coral under ambient conditions. Chlorophyll a, and protein content increased in the RCP2.6 scenario, but were not influenced by contact with the macroalga. We conclude that the coral host was negatively affected by RCP2.6 conditions, whereas the productivity of its symbionts (zooxanthellae) was enhanced. While a negative effect of the macroalga (C. fastigiata) on the coral (P. lobata) was observed for the P:R ratio under control conditions, it was not enhanced under RCP2.6 conditions.

Continue reading ‘Coral-macroalgal competition under ocean warming and acidification’

Effects of warming and CO2 enrichment on O2 consumption, porewater oxygenation and pH of subtidal silt sediment

We investigated the effects of seawater warming and CO2 enrichment on the microbial community metabolism (using O2 consumption as a proxy) in subtidal silt sediment. Intact sediment cores, without large dwelling infauna, were incubated for 24 days at 12 (in situ) and 18 °C to confirm the expected temperature response. We then enriched the seawater overlying a subset of cold and warm-incubated cores with CO2 (+ ΔpCO2: 253–396 µatm) for 16 days and measured the metabolic response. Warming increased the depth-integrated volume-specific O2 consumption (Rvol), the maximum in the volume-specific O2 consumption at the bottom of the oxic zone (Rvol,bmax) and the volume-specific net O2 production (Pn,vol), and decreased the O2 penetration depth (O2-pd) and the depth of Rvol,bmax (depthbmax). Benthic photosynthesis oscillated the pH in the upper 2 mm of the sediment. CO2 enrichment of the warm seawater did not alter this oscillation but shifted the pH profile towards acidity; the effect was greatest at the surface and decreased to a depth of 12 mm. Confoundment rendered the CO2 treatment of the cold seawater inconclusive. In warm seawater, we found no statistically clear effect of CO2 enrichment on RvolRvol,bmaxPn,vol, O2-pd, or depthbmax and therefore suspect that this perturbation did not alter the microbial community metabolism. This confirms the conclusion from experiments with other, contrasting types of sediment.

Continue reading ‘Effects of warming and CO2 enrichment on O2 consumption, porewater oxygenation and pH of subtidal silt sediment’

Meta-analysis of multiple driver effects on marine phytoplankton highlights modulating role of pCO2

Responses of marine primary production to a changing climate are determined by a concert of multiple environmental changes, for example in temperature, light, pCO2, nutrients, and grazing. To make robust projections of future global marine primary production, it is crucial to understand multiple driver effects on phytoplankton. This meta-analysis quantifies individual and interactive effects of dual driver combinations on marine phytoplankton growth rates. Almost 50% of the single-species laboratory studies were excluded because central data and metadata (growth rates, carbonate system, experimental treatments) were insufficiently reported. The remaining data (42 studies) allowed for the analysis of interactions of pCO2 with temperature, light, and nutrients, respectively. Growth rates mostly respond non-additively, whereby the interaction with increased pCO2 profusely dampens growth-enhancing effects of high temperature and high light. Multiple and single driver effects on coccolithophores differ from other phytoplankton groups, especially in their high sensitivity to increasing pCO2. Polar species decrease their growth rate in response to high pCO2, while temperate and tropical species benefit under these conditions. Based on the observed interactions and projected changes, we anticipate primary productivity to: (a) first increase but eventually decrease in the Arctic Ocean once nutrient limitation outweighs the benefits of higher light availability; (b) decrease in the tropics and mid-latitudes due to intensifying nutrient limitation, possibly amplified by elevated pCO2; and (c) increase in the Southern Ocean in view of higher nutrient availability and synergistic interaction with increasing pCO2. Growth-enhancing effect of high light and warming to coccolithophores, mainly Emiliania huxleyi, might increase their relative abundance as long as not offset by acidification. Dinoflagellates are expected to increase their relative abundance due to their positive growth response to increasing pCO2 and light levels. Our analysis reveals gaps in the knowledge on multiple driver responses and provides recommendations for future work on phytoplankton.

Continue reading ‘Meta-analysis of multiple driver effects on marine phytoplankton highlights modulating role of pCO2’

Elevated CO2 concentration alleviates UVR-induced inhibition of photosynthetic light reactions and growth in an intertidal red macroalga


  • Both photosynthetic and growth rates of Pyropia yezoensis are inhibited by UVR.
  • Ultraviolet radiation showed significant inhibition on PSII but not for PSI.
  • There is an interaction between CO2 concentration and irradiance quality.
  • High CO2 concentration could alleviate the negative effects of UVR.


The commercially important red macroalga Pyropia (formerly Porphyra) yezoensis is, in its natural intertidal environment, subjected to high levels of both photosynthetically active and ultraviolet radiation (PAR and UVR, respectively). In the present work, we investigated the effects of a plausibly increased global CO2 concentration on quantum yields of photosystems II (PSII) and I (PSI), as well as photosynthetic and growth rates of P. yezoensis grown under natural solar irradiance regimes with or without the presence of UV-A and/or UV-B. Our results showed that the high-CO2 treatment (~1000 μbar, which also caused a drop of 0.3 pH units in the seawater) significantly increased both CO2 assimilation rates (by 35%) and growth (by 18%), as compared with ambient air of ~400 μbar CO2. The inhibition of growth by UV-A (by 26%) was reduced to 15% by high-CO2 concentration, while the inhibition by UV-B remained at ~6% under both CO2 concentrations. Homologous results were also found for the maximal relative photosynthetic electron transport rates (rETRmax), the maximum quantum yield of PSII (Fv/Fm), as well as the midday decrease in effective quantum yield of PSII (YII) and concomitant increased non-photochemical quenching (NPQ). A two-way ANOVA analysis showed an interaction between CO2 concentration and irradiance quality, reflecting that UVR-induced inhibition of both growth and YII were alleviated under the high-CO2 treatment. Contrary to PSII, the effective quantum yield of PSI (YI) showed higher values under high-CO2 condition, and was not significantly affected by the presence of UVR, indicating that it was well protected from this radiation. Both the elevated CO2 concentration and presence of UVR significantly induced UV-absorbing compounds. These results suggest that future increasing CO2 conditions will be beneficial for photosynthesis and growth of P. yezoensis even if UVR should remain at high levels.

Continue reading ‘Elevated CO2 concentration alleviates UVR-induced inhibition of photosynthetic light reactions and growth in an intertidal red macroalga’

High light alongside elevated PCO2 alleviates thermal depression of photosynthesis in a hard coral (Pocillopora acuta)

The absorbtion of human-emitted CO2 by the oceans (elevated PCO2) is projected to alter the physiological performance of coral reef organisms by perturbing seawater chemistry (i.e. ocean acidification). Simultaneously, greenhouse gas emissions are driving ocean warming and changes in irradiance (through turbidity and cloud cover), which have the potential to influence the effects of ocean acidification on coral reefs. Here, we explored whether physiological impacts of elevated PCO2 on a coral–algal symbiosis (Pocillopora acuta–Symbiodiniaceae) are mediated by light and/or temperature levels. In a 39 day experiment, elevated PCO2 (962 versus 431 µatm PCO2) had an interactive effect with midday light availability (400 versus 800 µmol photons m−2 s−1) and temperature (25 versus 29°C) on areal gross and net photosynthesis, for which a decline at 29°C was ameliorated under simultaneous high-PCO2 and high-light conditions. Light-enhanced dark respiration increased under elevated PCO2 and/or elevated temperature. Symbiont to host cell ratio and chlorophyll a per symbiont increased at elevated temperature, whilst symbiont areal density decreased. The ability of moderately strong light in the presence of elevated PCO2 to alleviate the temperature-induced decrease in photosynthesis suggests that higher substrate availability facilitates a greater ability for photochemical quenching, partially offsetting the impacts of high temperature on the photosynthetic apparatus. Future environmental changes that result in moderate increases in light levels could therefore assist the P. acuta holobiont to cope with the ‘one–two punch’ of rising temperatures in the presence of an acidifying ocean.

Continue reading ‘High light alongside elevated PCO2 alleviates thermal depression of photosynthesis in a hard coral (Pocillopora acuta)’

Increased light availability enhances tolerance against ocean acidification stress in Halimeda opuntia

Although the adverse impacts of ocean acidification (OA) on marine calcifiers have been investigated substantially, the anti-stress abilities regulated by increased light availability are unclear. Herein, the interactive effects of three light levels combined with two pCO2 concentrations on the physiological acclimation of the calcifying macroalga Halimeda opuntia were investigated using a pCO2–light coupling experiment. The results indicate that OA exhibits an adverse role in influencing algal growth, calcification, photosynthesis and other physiological performances in H. opuntia. The relative growth rate in elevated pCO2 significantly declined by 13.14%–41.29%, while net calcification rates decreased by nearly three-fold under OA. Notably, increased light availability could enhance stress resistance by the accumulation of soluble organic molecules, especially soluble carbohydrate, soluble protein and free amino acids, and in combination with metabolic enzyme-driven activities alleviated OA stress. Carotenoid content in low light conditions accumulated remarkably and rapid light curves for relative electron transport rate was significantly enhanced by increasing light intensities, indicating that this new organization of the photosynthetic machinery in H. opuntia accommodated light variations and elevated pCO2 conditions. Taken together, the results describe stress resistance by the enhancement of metabolic performance in marine calcifiers to mitigate OA stress.

Continue reading ‘Increased light availability enhances tolerance against ocean acidification stress in Halimeda opuntia’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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