Posts Tagged 'phytoplankton'

Ocean acidification-induced restructuring of the plankton food web can influence the degradation of sinking particles

Ocean acidification (OA) is expected to alter plankton community structure in the future ocean. This, in turn, could change the composition of sinking organic matter and the efficiency of the biological carbon pump. So far, most OA experiments involving entire plankton communities have been conducted in meso- to eutrophic environments. However, recent studies suggest that OA effects may be more pronounced during prolonged periods of nutrient limitation. In this study, we investigated how OA-induced changes in low-nutrient adapted plankton communities of the subtropical North Atlantic Ocean may affect particulate organic matter (POM) standing stocks, POM fluxes, and POM stoichiometry. More specifically, we compared the elemental composition of POM suspended in the water column to the corresponding sinking material collected in sediment traps. Three weeks into the experiment, we simulated a natural upwelling event by adding nutrient-rich deep-water to all mesocosms, which induced a diatom-dominated phytoplankton bloom. Our results show that POM was more efficiently retained in the water column in the highest CO2 treatment levels (>800 μatm pCO2) subsequent to this bloom. We further observed significantly lower C:N and C:P ratios in post-bloom sedimented POM in the highest CO2 treatments, suggesting that degradation processes were less pronounced. This trend is most likely explained by differences in micro- and mesozooplankton abundance during the bloom and post-bloom phase. Overall, this study shows that OA can indirectly alter POM fluxes and stoichiometry in subtropical environments through changes in plankton community structure.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification-induced restructuring of the plankton food web can influence the degradation of sinking particles’

Dual role of DOM in a scenario of global change on photosynthesis and structure of coastal phytoplankton from the South Atlantic Ocean


• In a future scenario, attenuation by DOM outcompetes its physico-chemical role.
• Global change conditions will favor growth and photosynthesis of nanoplankton.
• Global change favors growth and photosynthesis of nano- as compared to microplankton.


We evaluated the dual role of DOM (i.e., as a source of inorganic nutrients and as an absorber of solar radiation) on a phytoplankton community of the western South Atlantic Ocean. Using a combination of microcosms and a cluster approach, we simulated the future conditions of some variables that are highly influenced by global change in the region. We increased nutrients (i.e., anthropogenic input) and dissolved organic matter (DOM), and we decreased the pH, to assess their combined impact on growth rates (μ), species composition/abundance and size structure, and photosynthesis (considering in this later also the effects of light quality i.e., with and without ultraviolet radiation). We simulated two Future conditions (Fut) where nutrients and pH were similarly manipulated, but in one the physical role of DOM (Futout) was assessed whereas in the other (Futin) the physico-chemical role was evaluated; these conditions were compared with a control (Present condition, Pres). The μ significantly increased in both Fut conditions as compared to the Pres, probably due to the nutrient addition and acidification in the former. The highest μ were observed in the Futout, due to the growth of nanoplanktonic flagellates and diatoms. Cells in the Futin were photosynthetically less efficient as compared to those of the Futout and Pres, but these physiological differences, also between samples with or without solar UVR observed at the beginning of the experiment, decreased with time hinting for an acclimation process. The knowledge of the relative importance of both roles of DOM is especially important for coastal areas that are expected to receive higher inputs and will be more acidified in the future.

Continue reading ‘Dual role of DOM in a scenario of global change on photosynthesis and structure of coastal phytoplankton from the South Atlantic Ocean’

Étude en mésocosmes des impacts de l’acidification et du réchauffement sur la composition élémentaire de la biomasse planctonique et le cycle de l’azote dans l’estuaire maritime du Saint-Laurent (in French)

Les changements globaux ont le potentiel d’altérer les cycles biogéochimiques entraînant des répercussions pour tout le réseau alimentaire. Puisque l’azote est généralement l’élément limitant en milieu estuarien, une altération de son cycle pourrait influencer l’ampleur et le type de production primaire ainsi que la composition de la communauté phytoplanctonique qui l’effectue. Il en va de même pour la composition de la matière organique qui peut affecter la valeur nutritive des algues pour les consommateurs de même que l’efficacité de la pompe biologique. Actuellement, aucune étude portant sur les impacts combinés de l’acidification et du réchauffement des eaux de l’estuaire maritime du Saint-Laurent n’a été réalisée. L’objectif de ce projet de maîtrise fut d’évaluer expérimentalement, à l’aide de mésocosme, les impacts cumulés que ces changements pourraient avoir sur la dynamique des nutriments et de l’azote en particulier ainsi que sur la composition élémentaire de la matière organique. Une combinaison factorielle de six pH (7,2; 7,4; 7,6; 7,8; 8,0 et un pH sans contrôle) et de deux températures (10 et 15°C) fut employée. Les résultats de l’expérience suggèrent que les organismes responsables des processus à l’étude sont tolérants à une diminution considérable du pH. Ceux-ci furent toutefois affectés par la hausse de température, qui entraîna une diminution du ratio N:P de consommation des nutriments, accéléra le développement de la floraison phytoplanctonique et l’épuisement des nutriments, puis mena à un changement taxonomique en fin d’expérience. Ce changement est possiblement responsable des différences observées dans la composition de la matière organique particulaire (POM) lors du déclin de la floraison planctonique (diminution des ratios POC:PON, POC:POP,POC:BSi et hausse du ratio BSi:PON). Ces résultats suggèrent que pour l’estuaire maritime du Saint-Laurent, le réchauffement pourrait entraîner des changements stœchiométriques au sein de la POM avec des conséquences probables pour les niveaux trophiques supérieurs et la pompe biologique.

Continue reading ‘Étude en mésocosmes des impacts de l’acidification et du réchauffement sur la composition élémentaire de la biomasse planctonique et le cycle de l’azote dans l’estuaire maritime du Saint-Laurent (in French)’

Ocean acidification changes the structure of an Antarctic coastal protistan community (update)

Antarctic near-shore waters are amongst the most sensitive in the world to ocean acidification. Microbes occupying these waters are critical drivers of ecosystem productivity, elemental cycling and ocean biogeochemistry, yet little is known about their sensitivity to ocean acidification. A six-level, dose–response experiment was conducted using 650 L incubation tanks (minicosms) adjusted to a gradient in fugacity of carbon dioxide (fCO2) from 343 to 1641 µatm. The six minicosms were filled with near-shore water from Prydz Bay, East Antarctica, and the protistan composition and abundance was determined by microscopy during 18 days of incubation. No CO2-related change in the protistan community composition was observed during the initial 8 day acclimation period under low light. Thereafter, the response of both autotrophic and heterotrophic protists to fCO2 was species-specific. The response of diatoms was mainly cell size related; microplanktonic diatoms ( >  20 µm) increased in abundance with low to moderate fCO2 (343–634 µatm) but decreased at fCO2  ≥  953 µatm. Similarly, the abundance of Phaeocystis antarctica increased with increasing fCO2 peaking at 634 µatm. Above this threshold the abundance of micro-sized diatoms and P. antarctica fell dramatically, and nanoplanktonic diatoms ( ≤  20 µm) dominated, therefore culminating in a significant change in the protistan community composition. Comparisons of these results with previous experiments conducted at this site show that the fCO2 thresholds are similar, despite seasonal and interannual differences in the physical and biotic environment. This suggests that near-shore microbial communities are likely to change significantly near the end of this century if anthropogenic CO2 release continues unabated, with profound ramifications for near-shore Antarctic ecosystem food webs and biogeochemical cycling.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification changes the structure of an Antarctic coastal protistan community (update)’

Microalgal photophysiology and macronutrient distribution in summer sea ice in the Amundsen and Ross Seas, Antarctica

Our study addresses how environmental variables, such as macronutrients concentrations, snow cover, carbonate chemistry and salinity affect the photophysiology and biomass of Antarctic sea-ice algae. We have measured vertical profiles of inorganic macronutrients (phosphate, nitrite + nitrate and silicic acid) in summer sea ice and photophysiology of ice algal assemblages in the poorly studied Amundsen and Ross Seas sectors of the Southern Ocean. Brine-scaled bacterial abundance, chl a and macronutrient concentrations were often high in the ice and positively correlated with each other. Analysis of photosystem II rapid light curves showed that microalgal cells in samples with high phosphate and nitrite + nitrate concentrations had reduced maximum relative electron transport rate and photosynthetic efficiency. We also observed strong couplings of PSII parameters to snow depth, ice thickness and brine salinity, which highlights a wide range of photoacclimation in Antarctic pack-ice algae. It is likely that the pack ice was in a post-bloom situation during the late sea-ice season, with low photosynthetic efficiency and a high degree of nutrient accumulation occurring in the ice. In order to predict how key biogeochemical processes are affected by future changes in sea ice cover, such as in situ photosynthesis and nutrient cycling, we need to understand how physicochemical properties of sea ice affect the microbial community. Our results support existing hypothesis about sea-ice algal photophysiology, and provide additional observations on high nutrient concentrations in sea ice that could influence the planktonic communities as the ice is retreating.

Continue reading ‘Microalgal photophysiology and macronutrient distribution in summer sea ice in the Amundsen and Ross Seas, Antarctica’

Interactive effects of ocean acidification with other environmental drivers on marine plankton

Planktonic organisms form the base of the marine food web and may be impacted by environmental change in many ways. The interactive effects of multiple, simultaneous climate-driven changes on these organisms are not well understood. This dissertation examined the impacts of ocean acidification in combination with other environmental stressors on marine plankton and determined spatial patterns of one of these potential interactive drivers. Chapter 2 investigated the synergistic effects of ocean acidification and hypoxia on the harmful dinoflagellate Amphidinium carterae. Findings indicated that empirical studies may be crucial to accurately predict organismal responses to multi-stressors. Results also suggested that photorespiration may serve a previously unrecognized role in dinoflagellate metabolism. Chapter 3 examined the combined effects of ocean acidification and lithogenic trace metals on the growth of another harmful dinoflagellate, Cochlodinium polykrikoides. Results indicated that high suspended sediment loads may deliver toxic concentrations of trace elements to marine phytoplankton in acidified coastal ecosystems. Chapter 4 examined the interactive effects of ocean acidification and bacteria on the severity and extent of dissolution in the shells of larval gastropods and the adult pteropod Limacina helicina. Research findings indicated that microbial communities on the shell surfaces of some planktonic molluscs may mediate certain types of shell dissolution in acidified, upwelled waters. Chapter 5 explored the use of thorium isotope fluxes as a proxy for dust and lithogenic iron in the Indian Ocean. Results suggested that the gradient of dust fluxes in the region could impose thresholds for biological productivity. Together, these interdisciplinary studies demonstrate coupled biological and chemical changes in marine ecosystems as a result of increased anthropogenic environmental change.

Continue reading ‘Interactive effects of ocean acidification with other environmental drivers on marine plankton’

Climate conditions, and changes, affect microalgae communities… should we worry?

Microalgae play a pivotal role in the regulation of Earth’s climate and its cycles, but are also affected by climate change, mainly by changes in temperature, light, ocean acidification, water stratification, and precipitation‐induced nutrient inputs. The changes and impacts on microalgae communities are difficult to study, predict, and manage, but there is no doubt that there will be changes. These changes will have impacts beyond microalgae communities, and many of them will be negative. Some actions are currently ongoing for the mitigation of some of the negative impacts, such as harmful algal blooms and water quality, but global efforts for reducing CO2 emissions, temperature rises, and ocean acidification are paramount for reducing the impact of climate change on microalgae communities, and eventually, on human well‐being.

Continue reading ‘Climate conditions, and changes, affect microalgae communities… should we worry?’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book