Posts Tagged 'nutrients'

The impacts of iron limitation and ocean acidification on the cellular stoichiometry, photophysiology, and transcriptome of Phaeocystis antarctica

Phaeocystis antarctica is an integral player of the phytoplankton community of the Southern Ocean (SO), the world’s largest high-nutrient low-chlorophyll region, and faces chronic iron (Fe) limitation. As the SO is responsible for 40% of anthropogenic CO2 uptake, P. antarctica must also deal with ocean acidification (OA). However, mechanistic studies investigating the effects of Fe limitation and OA on trace metal (TM) stoichiometry, transcriptomic, and photophysiological responses of this species, as well as on the Fe chemistry, are lacking. This study reveals that P. antarctica responded strongly to Fe limitation by reducing its growth rate and particulate organic carbon (POC) production. Cellular concentrations of all TMs, not just Fe, were greatly reduced, suggesting that Fe limitation may drive cells into secondary limitation by another TM. P. antarctica was able to adjust its photophysiology in response to Fe limitation, resulting in similar absolute electron transport rates across PSII. Even though OA-stimulated growth in Fe-limited and -replete treatments, the slight reduction in cellular POC resulted in no net effect on POC production. In addition, relatively few genes were differentially expressed due to OA. Finally, this study demonstrates that, under our culture conditions, OA did not affect inorganic Fe or humic-acid-like substances in seawater but triggered the production of humic-acid-like substances by P. antarctica. This species is well adapted to OA under all Fe conditions, giving it a competitive advantage over more sensitive species in a future ocean.

Continue reading ‘The impacts of iron limitation and ocean acidification on the cellular stoichiometry, photophysiology, and transcriptome of Phaeocystis antarctica’

Response of subtropical phytoplankton communities to ocean acidification under oligotrophic conditions and during nutrient fertilization

The subtropical oceans are home to the largest phytoplankton biome on the planet. Yet, little is known about potential impacts of ocean acidification (OA) on phytoplankton community composition in the vast oligotrophic ecosystems of the subtropical gyres. To address this question, we conducted an experiment with 9 in situ mesocosms (~35 m3) off the coast of Gran Canaria in the eastern subtropical North Atlantic over a period of 9 weeks. By establishing a gradient of pCO2 ranging from ~350 to 1,025 μatm, we simulated carbonate chemistry conditions as projected until the end of the twenty-first century. Furthermore, we injected nutrient-rich deep water into the mesocosms halfway through the experiment to simulate a natural upwelling event, which regularly leads to patchy nutrient fertilization in the study region. The temporal developments of major taxonomic groups of phytoplankton were analyzed by flow cytometry, pigment composition and microscopy. We observed distinct shifts in phytoplankton community structure in response to high CO2, with markedly different patterns depending on nutrient status of the system. Phytoplankton biomass during the oligotrophic phase was dominated by picocyanobacteria (Synechococcus), which constituted 60–80% of biomass and displayed significantly higher cell abundances at elevated pCO2. The addition of deep water triggered a substantial bloom of large, chain-forming diatoms (mainly Guinardia striata and Leptocylindrus danicus) that dominated the phytoplankton community during the bloom phase (70–80% of biomass) and until the end of the experiment. A CO2 effect on bulk diatom biomass became apparent only in the highest CO2 treatments (>800 μatm), displaying elevated concentrations especially in the stationary phase after nutrient depletion. Notably, these responses were tightly linked to distinct interspecific shifts within the diatom assemblage, particularly favoring the largest species Guinardia striata. Other taxonomic groups contributed less to total phytoplankton biomass, but also displayed distinct responses to OA treatments. For instance, higher CO2 favored the occurrence of prymnesiophyceae (Phaeocystis globosa) and dictyochophyceae, whereas dinoflagellates were negatively affected by increasing CO2. Altogether, our findings revealed considerable shifts in species composition in response to elevated CO2 and/or lower pH, indicating that phytoplankton communities in the subtropical oligotrophic oceans might be profoundly altered by ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Response of subtropical phytoplankton communities to ocean acidification under oligotrophic conditions and during nutrient fertilization’

The effects of nutrient addition and ocean acidification on tropical crustose coralline algae

As the global population increases, the occurrence of multiple anthropogenic
impacts on valuable coastal ecosystems, such as coral reefs, also increases. These
stressors can be global and long-term, like ocean acidification (OA), or local and short term, like nutrient runoff in some areas. The combination of these stressors can  potentially have additive or interactive effects on the organisms in coral reef
communities. Among the most important groups of organisms on coral reefs are crustose coralline algae (CCA), calcifying algae that cement the reef together and contribute to the global carbon cycle. This thesis studied the effects of nutrient addition and OA on Lithophyllum kotschyanum, a common species of CCA on the fringing reefs of Mo’orea, French Polynesia. Two mesocosm experiments tested the individual and interactive effects of OA and short-term nitrate and phosphate addition on L. kotschyanum. These experiments showed that nitrate and phosphate addition together increased photosynthesis, OA had interactive effects with nutrient addition, and after nutrient addition ended, calcification and photosynthetic rates changed in unpredictable ways in different OA and nutrient treatments. Because the results of the first two experiments showed impacts of nutrients even after addition stopped, two more mesocosm experiments were conducted to study the changes in photosynthesis and calcification over hourly time scales more relevant to a single nutrient pulse event. These two experiments revealed the existence of diurnal variation in light-saturated photosynthetic rate, but not calcification rate, under ambient and elevated pCO2. This pattern of increased maximum photosynthesis in the middle of the day can have important implications for how the time of nutrient runoff events during the day impacts CCA physiology. Finally, a field experiment was conducted to determine the effects of short- and long-term nutrient addition on L. kotschyanum. The results showed that a series of short-term nutrient additions did not increase photosynthesis or calcification rates above those in ambient nutrient conditions, but continual nutrient enrichment for 6 weeks increased photosynthetic rates. This increase in photosynthesis under only long-term enrichment shows the need for consideration of specific nutrient addition scenarios on coral reefs when predicting how the community will be affected.

Continue reading ‘The effects of nutrient addition and ocean acidification on tropical crustose coralline algae’

Plankton community respiration and ETS activity under variable CO2 and nutrient fertilization during a mesocosm study in the subtropical North Atlantic

The enzymatic electron transport system (ETS) assay is frequently used as a proxy of respiratory activity in planktonic communities. It is thought to estimate the maximum overall activity of the enzymes associated with the respiratory ETS systems in both eukaryotic and prokaryotic organisms. Thus, in order to derive actual respiration rates (R) from ETS it is necessary to determine empirical R/ETS conversion algorithms. In this study we explore the temporal development of R and ETS activity in natural plankton communities (from bacteria to large phytoplankton) enclosed in mesocosms, treated with different CO2 concentrations. The experiment lasted 30 days, during which abrupt changes in community structure and biomass occurred through a sharp transition from oligotrophy (phase I) to highly eutrophic conditions (phase II) after nutrient-induced fertilization (day 18). R and ETS did not show any response to CO2 under oligotrophic conditions, but R increased significantly more in the two high CO2 mesocosms after fertilization, coinciding with a sharp rise in large phytoplankton (mostly diatoms). R and ETS were significantly correlated only during the eutrophic phase. The R/ETS ranged more than 3 fold in magnitude during the experiment, with phase-averaged values significantly higher under oligotrophic conditions (0.7-1.1) than after nutrient fertilization (0.5-0.7). We did not find any significant relationship between R/ETS and community structure or biomass, although R correlated significantly with total biomass after fertilization in the four mesocosms. Multiple stepwise regression models show that large phytoplankton explains most of the variance in R during phases I (86%) and II (53%) and of ETS (86%) during phase II, while picophytoplankton contributes up to 73% to explain the variance in the ETS model during phase I. Our results suggest that R/ETS may be too variable in the ocean as to apply constant values to different communities living under contrasting environmental conditions. Controlled experiments with natural communities, like the present one, would help to constrain the range of variability of the R/ETS ratio, and to understand the factors driving it.

Continue reading ‘Plankton community respiration and ETS activity under variable CO2 and nutrient fertilization during a mesocosm study in the subtropical North Atlantic’

Juveniles of the Atlantic coral, Favia fragum (Esper, 1797) do not invest energy to maintain calcification under ocean acidification


• Fed corals produce larger and heavier skeletons than unfed corals.
• Corals maintained under elevated light conditions have greater energetic reserves.
• Acidification reduces coral calcification, regardless of nutritional enhancement.
• Acidification does not reduce coral size or energetic (total lipid) reserves.
• Metabolic resources are not used to mitigate acidification impact on calcification.


Ocean acidification (OA) threatens coral reef ecosystems by slowing calcification and enhancing dissolution of calcifying organisms and sediments. Nevertheless, multiple factors have been shown to modulate OA’s impact on calcification, including the nutritional status of the coral host. In three separate experiments, we exposed juveniles of the Atlantic golf ball coral, Favia fragum, to elevated CO2 and varied nutritional (light or feeding) conditions. Juveniles reared from planulae larvae were significantly larger and produced more CaCO3 when fed, regardless of CO2 level. However, corals subjected to elevated CO2 produced less CaCO3 per mm2 regardless of feeding condition. Additionally, unfed corals reared under elevated light levels exhibited lower chlorophyll a and higher total lipid content, but light had no significant effect on coral calcification. Conversely, elevated CO2 had a significant, negative affect on calcification, regardless of light condition but no detectable effect on physiological tissue parameters. Our results indicate that the sensitivity of juvenile F. fragum calcification to OA was neither modulated by light nor by feeding, despite physiological indications of enhanced nutritional status. This suggests that corals do not necessarily divert energy to maintain calcification under high CO2, even when they have the energetic resources to do so.

Continue reading ‘Juveniles of the Atlantic coral, Favia fragum (Esper, 1797) do not invest energy to maintain calcification under ocean acidification’

Nitrogen availability modulates the effects of ocean acidification on biomass yield and food quality of a marine crop Pyropia yezoensis


• Higher pCO2 reduces growth of Pyropia yezoensis.
• Higher pCO2 induces synthesis of phycobiliprotein and flavor amino acids.
• Higher nitrate alleviates the negative effect of ocean acidification on growth.
• Higher nitrate and pCO2 synergistically stimulate phycobiliprotein synthesis.
• Higher nitrate and higher pCO2 synergistically stimulate amino acid synthesis.


Pyropia yezoensis is an important marine crop in the world. We cultured it under two levels of partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) (408 (LC), 998 (HC) μatm) and nitrate (30 (LN) and 500 (HN) μmol L-1) to investigate the effect of ocean acidification on its growth and food quality under changing nitrogen supply. HC decreased growth rate of P. yezoensis under LN but did not affect it under HN. Phycoerythrin and phycocyanin were enhanced by HC, particularly at HN, which contributed to the darker color. HC stimulated the synthesis of sweat amino acids regardless of nitrate condition and umami amino acid only under LN. HN increased the content of umami amino acids regardless of pCO2 condition and sweet amino acids only under LC. Our findings indicate that future ocean acidification may reduce biomass yield of P. yezoensis but increase its color and flavor, which was regulated by nitrate availability.

Continue reading ‘Nitrogen availability modulates the effects of ocean acidification on biomass yield and food quality of a marine crop Pyropia yezoensis’

Does nutrient availability regulate seagrass response to elevated CO2?

Future increases in oceanic carbon dioxide concentrations (CO2(aq)) may provide a benefit to submerged plants by alleviating photosynthetic carbon limitation. However, other environmental factors (for example, nutrient availability) may alter how seagrasses respond to CO2(aq) by regulating the supply of additional resources required to support growth. Thus, questions remain in regard to how other factors influence CO2(aq) effects on submerged vegetation. This study factorially manipulated CO2(aq) and nutrient availability, in situ, within a subtropical seagrass bed for 350 days, and examined treatment effects on leaf productivity, shoot density, above- and belowground biomass, nutrient content, carbohydrate storage, and sediment organic carbon (Corg). Clear, open-top chambers were used to replicate CO2(aq) forecasts for the year 2100, whereas nutrient availability was manipulated via sediment amendments of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertilizer. We provide modest evidence of a CO2 effect, which increased seagrass aboveground biomass. CO2(aq) enrichment had no effect on nutrient content, carbohydrate storage, or sediment Corg content. Nutrient addition increased leaf productivity and leaf N content, however did not alter above- or belowground biomass, shoot density, carbohydrate storage, or Corg content. Treatment interactions were not significant, and thus NP availability did not influence seagrass responses to elevated CO2(aq). This study demonstrates that long-term carbon enrichment may alter the structure of shallow seagrass meadows, even in relatively nutrient-poor, oligotrophic systems.

Continue reading ‘Does nutrient availability regulate seagrass response to elevated CO2?’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book