Posts Tagged 'nitrogen fixation'

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;, 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).

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Molecular and physiological evidence of genetic assimilation to high CO2 in the marine nitrogen fixer Trichodesmium

Most investigations of biogeochemically important microbes have focused on plastic (short-term) phenotypic responses in the absence of genetic change, whereas few have investigated adaptive (long-term) responses. However, no studies to date have investigated the molecular progression underlying the transition from plasticity to adaptation under elevated CO2 for a marine nitrogen-fixer. To address this gap, we cultured the globally important cyanobacterium Trichodesmium at both low and high CO2 for 4.5 y, followed by reciprocal transplantation experiments to test for adaptation. Intriguingly, fitness actually increased in all high-CO2 adapted cell lines in the ancestral environment upon reciprocal transplantation. By leveraging coordinated phenotypic and transcriptomic profiles, we identified expression changes and pathway enrichments that rapidly responded to elevated CO2 and were maintained upon adaptation, providing strong evidence for genetic assimilation. These candidate genes and pathways included those involved in photosystems, transcriptional regulation, cell signaling, carbon/nitrogen storage, and energy metabolism. Conversely, significant changes in specific sigma factor expression were only observed upon adaptation. These data reveal genetic assimilation as a potentially adaptive response of Trichodesmium and importantly elucidate underlying metabolic pathways paralleling the fixation of the plastic phenotype upon adaptation, thereby contributing to the few available data demonstrating genetic assimilation in microbial photoautotrophs. These molecular insights are thus critical for identifying pathways under selection as drivers in plasticity and adaptation.

Continue reading ‘Molecular and physiological evidence of genetic assimilation to high CO2 in the marine nitrogen fixer Trichodesmium’

Mechanisms of increased Trichodesmium fitness under iron and phosphorus co-limitation in the present and future ocean

Nitrogen fixation by cyanobacteria supplies critical bioavailable nitrogen to marine ecosystems worldwide; however, field and lab data have demonstrated it to be limited by iron, phosphorus and/or CO2. To address unknown future interactions among these factors, we grew the nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium Trichodesmium for 1 year under Fe/P co-limitation following 7 years of both low and high CO2 selection. Fe/P co-limited cell lines demonstrated a complex cellular response including increased growth rates, broad proteome restructuring and cell size reductions relative to steady-state growth limited by either Fe or P alone. Fe/P co-limitation increased abundance of a protein containing a conserved domain previously implicated in cell size regulation, suggesting a similar role in Trichodesmium. Increased CO2 further induced nutrient-limited proteome shifts in widespread core metabolisms. Our results thus suggest that N2-fixing microbes may be significantly impacted by interactions between elevated CO2 and nutrient limitation, with broad implications for global biogeochemical cycles in the future ocean.

Continue reading ‘Mechanisms of increased Trichodesmium fitness under iron and phosphorus co-limitation in the present and future ocean’

No observed effect of ocean acidification on nitrogen biogeochemistry in a summer Baltic Sea plankton community (update)

Nitrogen fixation by filamentous cyanobacteria supplies significant amounts of new nitrogen (N) to the Baltic Sea. This balances N loss processes such as denitrification and anammox, and forms an important N source supporting primary and secondary production in N-limited post-spring bloom plankton communities. Laboratory studies suggest that filamentous diazotrophic cyanobacteria growth and N2-fixation rates are sensitive to ocean acidification, with potential implications for new N supply to the Baltic Sea. In this study, our aim was to assess the effect of ocean acidification on diazotroph growth and activity as well as the contribution of diazotrophically fixed N to N supply in a natural plankton assemblage. We enclosed a natural plankton community in a summer season in the Baltic Sea near the entrance to the Gulf of Finland in six large-scale mesocosms (volume ∼ 55 m3) and manipulated fCO2 over a range relevant for projected ocean acidification by the end of this century (average treatment fCO2: 365–1231 µatm). The direct response of diazotroph growth and activity was followed in the mesocosms over a 47 day study period during N-limited growth in the summer plankton community. Diazotrophic filamentous cyanobacteria abundance throughout the study period and N2-fixation rates (determined only until day 21 due to subsequent use of contaminated commercial 15N-N2 gas stocks) remained low. Thus estimated new N inputs from diazotrophy were too low to relieve N limitation and stimulate a summer phytoplankton bloom. Instead, regeneration of organic N sources likely sustained growth in the plankton community. We could not detect significant CO2-related differences in neither inorganic nor organic N pool sizes, or particulate matter N : P stoichiometry. Additionally, no significant effect of elevated CO2 on diazotroph activity was observed. Therefore, ocean acidification had no observable impact on N cycling or biogeochemistry in this N-limited, post-spring bloom plankton assemblage in the Baltic Sea.

Continue reading ‘No observed effect of ocean acidification on nitrogen biogeochemistry in a summer Baltic Sea plankton community (update)’

Implications of ocean acidification for marine microorganisms from the free-living to the host-associated

Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are causing oceans to become more acidic, with consequences for all marine life including microorganisms. Studies reveal that from the microbes that occupy the open ocean to those intimately associated with their invertebrate hosts, changing ocean chemistry will alter the critical functions of these important organisms. Our current understanding indicates that bacterial communities associated with their host will shift as pH drops by another 0.2-0.4 units over the next 100 years. It is unclear what impacts this will have for host health, however increased vulnerability to disease seems likely for those associated with reef corals. Natural CO2 seeps have provided a unique setting for the study of microbial communities under OA in situ, where shifts in the bacterial communities associated with corals at the seep are correlated with a decline in abundance of the associated coral species. Changes to global biogeochemical cycles also appear likely as photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation by pelagic microbes becomes enhanced under low pH conditions. However, recent long-term studies have shown that pelagic microbes are also capable of evolutionary adaptation, with some physiological responses to a decline in pH restored after hundreds of generations at high pCO2 levels. The impacts of ocean acidification (OA) also will not work in isolation, thus synergistic interactions with other potential stressors, such as rising seawater temperatures, will likely exacerbate the microbial response to OA. This review discusses our existing understanding of the impacts of OA on both pelagic and host-associated marine microbial communities, whilst highlighting the importance of controlled laboratory studies and in situ experiments, to fill the current gaps in our knowledge.

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Nitrate fertilisation does not enhance CO2 responses in two tropical seagrass species

Seagrasses are often considered “winners” of ocean acidification (OA); however, seagrass productivity responses to OA could be limited by nitrogen availability, since nitrogen-derived metabolites are required for carbon assimilation. We tested nitrogen uptake and assimilation, photosynthesis, growth, and carbon allocation responses of the tropical seagrasses Halodule uninervis and Thalassia hemprichii to OA scenarios (428, 734 and 1213 μatm pCO2) under two nutrients levels (0.3 and 1.9 μM NO3−). Net primary production (measured as oxygen production) and growth in H. uninervis increased with pCO2 enrichment, but were not affected by nitrate enrichment. However, nitrate enrichment reduced whole plant respiration in H. uninervis. Net primary production and growth did not show significant changes with pCO2 or nitrate by the end of the experiment (24 d) in T. hemprichii. However, nitrate incorporation in T. hemprichii was higher with nitrate enrichment. There was no evidence that nitrogen demand increased with pCO2 enrichment in either species. Contrary to our initial hypothesis, nutrient increases to levels approximating present day flood plumes only had small effects on metabolism. This study highlights that the paradigm of increased productivity of seagrasses under ocean acidification may not be valid for all species under all environmental conditions.

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Ocean acidification impacts on nitrogen fixation in the coastal western Mediterranean Sea

The effects of ocean acidification on nitrogen (N2) fixation rates and on the community composition of N2-fixing microbes (diazotrophs) were examined in coastal waters of the North-Western Mediterranean Sea. Nine experimental mesocosm enclosures of ∼50 m3 each were deployed for 20 days during June-July 2012 in the Bay of Calvi, Corsica, France. Three control mesocosms were maintained under ambient conditions of carbonate chemistry. The remainder were manipulated with CO2 saturated seawater to attain target amendments of pCO2 of 550, 650, 750, 850, 1000 and 1250 μatm. Rates of N2 fixation were elevated up to 10 times relative to control rates (2.00 ± 1.21 nmol L-1d-1) when pCO2 concentrations were >1000 μatm and pHT (total scale) < 7.74. Diazotrophic phylotypes commonly found in oligotrophic marine waters, including the Mediterranean, were not present at the onset of the experiment and therefore, the diazotroph community composition was characterised by amplifying partial nifH genes from the mesocosms. The diazotroph community was comprised primarily of cluster III nifH sequences (which include possible anaerobes), and proteobacterial (α and γ) sequences, in addition to small numbers of filamentous (or pseudo-filamentous) cyanobacterial phylotypes. The implication from this study is that there is some potential for elevated N2 fixation rates in the coastal western Mediterranean before the end of this century as a result of increasing ocean acidification. Observations made of variability in the diazotroph community composition could not be correlated with changes in carbon chemistry, which highlights the complexity of the relationship between ocean acidification and these keystone organisms.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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