Posts Tagged 'phytoplankton'

Sediment-seawater exchange altered adverse effects of ocean acidification towards marine microalgae


  • Five marine microalgal species showed different sensitivities to OA.
  • OA promoted algal growth except I. galbana after introducing sediments.
  • N, P and Fe released from sediments mitigated OA-induced toxicity to E. huxleyi.
  • OA-induced algal community instability was alleviated by the presence of sediments.


Ocean acidification (OA) exhibits high threat to marine microalgae. However, the role of marine sediment in the OA-induced adverse effect towards microalgae is largely unknown. In this work, the effects of OA (pH 7.50) on the growth of individual and co-cultured microalgae (Emiliania huxleyiIsochrysis galbanaChlorella vulgarisPhaeodactylum tricornutum, and Platymonas helgolandica tsingtaoensis) were systematically investigated in the sediment-seawater systems. OA inhibited E. huxleyi growth by 25.21 %, promoted P. helgolandica (tsingtaoensis) growth by 15.49 %, while did not cause any effect on the other three microalgal species in the absence of sediment. In the presence of the sediment, OA-induced growth inhibition of E. huxleyi was significantly mitigated, because the released chemicals (N, P and Fe) from seawater-sediment interface increased the photosynthesis and reduced oxidative stress. For P. tricornutum, C. vulgaris and P. helgolandica (tsingtaoensis), the growth was significantly increased in the presence of sediment in comparison with those under OA alone or normal seawater (pH 8.10). For I. galbana, the growth was inhibited when the sediment was introduced. Additionally, in the co-culturing system, C. vulgaris and P. tricornutum were the dominant species, while OA increased the proportions of dominant species and decreased the community stability as indicated by Shannon and Pielou’s indexes. After the introduction of sediment, the community stability was recovered, but remained lower than that under normal condition. This work demonstrated the role of sediment in the biological responses to OA, and could be helpful for better understanding the impact of OA on marine ecosystems.

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UBC gene family and their potential functions on the cellular homeostasis under the elevated pCO2 stress in the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum

Graphical abstract


  • 18 PtUBCs were identified into 5 independent clades.
  • Cis-acting elements related to stress responses were characterized from PtUBCs.
  • PtUBC15PtUBC16 and PtUBC7 might have a negative effect during the ERAD pathway.
  • The misfolded/ unfolded proteins might be degraded by the ERAD mechanism.


Ocean acidification (OA) as a result of more and more anthropogenic CO2 release, has already been referred to a severe ecological environmental issue. OA would destroy the balance of ocean carbonate buffering system and have negative effects on marine primary producers. Diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum is one of the most important primary producers in the ocean, and it is susceptible to the elevated pCO2 stress. Under the elevated pCO2 stress, endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation (ERAD) and its important components Ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes (UBCs) are pivotal to sustain cellular homeostasis. However, systematic investigation regarding phylogenetic relationships of UBC gene family, expression profiles under the elevated pCO2 stress and their potential functions on the cellular homeostasis of P. tricornutum remain poorly understood. In this study, a genome-wide analysis of PtUBC gene family was performed. It was shown that 18 PtUBC genes were unevenly distributed to the 14 chromosomes of total 33 chromosomes in P. tricornutum. Phylogenetic analysis showed that 18 PtUBC proteins were divided into 5 groups and each of them contained different conserved motifs. Besides, lots of cis-acting elements related to diverse stress responses were identified from PtUBC genes. Remarkably, transcriptomic analysis revealed that 3 PtUBC genes (PtUBC15PtUBC16 and PtUBC7) were downregulated under the exposure to elevated pCO2 level, while the other 15 PtUBC genes did not have significant expression. Meanwhile, the model of endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation (ERAD) mechanism was displayed, explaining that the misfolded/ unfolded proteins under the elevated pCO2 stress would be accumulated and then degraded via the ERAD mechanism to sustain the cellular homeostasis. The downregulated PtUBC genes might have a negative effect on the ERAD mechanism. Overall, this study provided an important foundation for further understanding of possible functions of PtUBC genes, especially on the cellular homeostasis, and the regulatory mechanism of PtUBCs on the diatom response to different environmental stresses.

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Metabolomics approach to reveal the effects of ocean acidification on the toxicity of harmful microalgae: a review of the literature

Graphical abstract

Climate change has been associated with intensified harmful algal blooms (HABs). Some harmful microalgae produce toxins that accumulate in food webs, adversely affecting the environment, public health and economy. Ocean acidification (OA) is a major consequence of high anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The carbon chemistry and pH of aquatic ecosystems have been significantly altered as a result. The impacts of climate change on the metabolisms of microalgae, especially toxin biosynthesis, remain largely unknown. This hinders the optimization of HAB mitigation for changed climate conditions. To bridge this knowledge gap, previous studies on the effects of ocean acidification on toxin biosynthesis in microalgae were reviewed. There was no solid conclusion for the toxicity change of saxitoxin-producing dinoflagellates from the genus Alexandrium after high CO2 treatment. Increased domoic acid content was observed in the diatom Pseudo-nitzschia. The brevetoxin content of Karenia brevis remained largely unchanged. The underlying regulatory mechanisms that account for the different toxicity levels observed have not been elucidated. Metabolic flux analysis is useful for investigating the carbon allocations of toxic microalgae under OA and revealing related metabolic pathways for toxin biosynthesis. Gaining knowledge of the responses of microalgae in high CO2 conditions will allow the better risk assessment of HABs in the future.

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Aquatic productivity under multiple stressors

Aquatic ecosystems are responsible for about 50% of global productivity. They mitigate climate change by taking up a substantial fraction of anthropogenically emitted CO2 and sink part of it into the deep ocean. Productivity is controlled by a number of environmental factors, such as water temperature, ocean acidification, nutrient availability, deoxygenation and exposure to solar UV radiation. Recent studies have revealed that these factors may interact to yield additive, synergistic or antagonistic effects. While ocean warming and deoxygenation are supposed to affect mitochondrial respiration oppositely, they can act synergistically to influence the migration of plankton and N2-fixation of diazotrophs. Ocean acidification, along with elevated pCO2, exhibits controversial effects on marine primary producers, resulting in negative impacts under high light and limited availability of nutrients. However, the acidic stress has been shown to exacerbate viral attacks on microalgae and to act synergistically with UV radiation to reduce the calcification of algal calcifiers. Elevated pCO2 in surface oceans is known to downregulate the CCMs (CO2 concentrating mechanisms) of phytoplankton, but deoxygenation is proposed to enhance CCMs by suppressing photorespiration. While most of the studies on climate-change drivers have been carried out under controlled conditions, field observations over long periods of time have been scarce. Mechanistic responses of phytoplankton to multiple drivers have been little documented due to the logistic difficulties to manipulate numerous replications for different treatments representative of the drivers. Nevertheless, future studies are expected to explore responses and involved mechanisms to multiple drivers in different regions, considering that regional chemical and physical environmental forcings modulate the effects of ocean global climate changes.

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Ocean acidification-mediated food chain transfer of polonium between primary producers and consumers

Phytoplankton and zooplankton are key marine components that play an important role in metal distribution through a food web transfer. An increased phytoplankton concentration as a result of ocean acidification and warming are well-established, along with the fact that phytoplankton biomagnify 210Po by 3–4 orders of magnitude compared to the seawater concentration. This experimental study is carried out to better understand the transfer of polonium between primary producers and consumers. The experimental produced data highlight the complex interaction between the polonium concentration in zooplankton food, i.e. phytoplankton, its excretion via defecated fecal pellets, and its bioaccumulation at ambient seawater pH and a lower pH of 7.7, typical of ocean acidification scenarios in the open ocean. The mass of copepods recovered was 11% less: 7.7 pH compared to 8.2. The effects of copepod species (n = 3), microalgae species (n = 3), pH (n = 2), and time (n = 4) on the polonium activity in the fecal pellets (expressed as % of the total activity introduced through feeding) was tested using an ANOVA 4. With the exception of time (model: F20, 215 = 176.84, p < 0.001; time: F3 = 1.76, p = 0.16), all tested parameters had an impact on the polonium activity (copepod species: F2 = 169.15, p < 0.0001; algae species: F2 = 10.21, p < 0.0001; pH: F1 = 9.85, p = 0.002) with complex interactions (copepod x algae: F2 = 19.48, p < 0.0001; copepod x pH: F2 = 10.54, p < 0.0001; algae x pH: F2 = 4.87, p = 0.009). The experimental data underpin the hypothesis that metal bioavailability and bioaccumulation will be enhanced in secondary consumers such as crustacean zooplankton due to ocean acidification.

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Enormously enhanced particulate organic carbon and nitrogen production by elevated CO2 and moderate aluminum enrichment in the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi

Aluminum (Al) is abundant and ubiquitous in the environment. However, little information is available on its effects on photosynthetic microbes in alkaline seawater. Thus, we investigated the physiological performance in the most cosmopolitan coccolithophorid, viz., Emiliania huxleyi, grown under low (410 µatm) and high (1000 µatm) CO2 levels in seawater having none (0 nM, NAl), low (0.2 µM, LAl) and high (2 µM, HAl) Al concentrations. Under low CO2 conditions, the specific growth rate showed no significant difference between the NAl and LAl treatments, which was higher than the HAL treatment. Elevated CO2 inhibited the growth rate in the NAl and LAl cultures but did not affect the HAl cultures. The addition of Al had no effects on (LAl) or slightly elevated (HAl) the particulate organic carbon (POC) production rate under low CO2 conditions. With increasing CO2 concentration, the production rate of POC was enhanced by 55.3 % during the NAl treatment and further increased by 22.3 % by adding 0.2 µM Al. The responses of particulate organic nitrogen (PON) production rate, cellular POC, and PON contents to the different treatments revealed the same pattern as those of the POC production rate. The particulate inorganic carbon (PIC) production rate and PIC/POC ratio were not affected by Al under low CO2 conditions. They were significantly decreased by elevated CO2 in the LAl and HAl cultures. Our results indicate that high CO2 could increase carbon export to ocean depths by elevating the efficiency of the biological pump at low Al levels occurring in natural seawater (0.2 μM), with potentially significant implications for the carbon cycle of the ocean under accelerating anthropogenic influences.

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Effects of elevated pCO2 on the response of coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi to prolonged darkness

Although numerous studies have examined the responses of coccolithophores to ocean acidification, less is known on the fate of those calcifying organisms when they sink to the ocean’s aphotic regions. In this study, the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi was first grown under a regular 12/12 light/dark cycle at 20°C, exposed to both high (1000 μatm) and ambient CO2 (410 μatm) levels. The cultures were then transferred to continuous darkness for 96 h at 20°C or 16°C. We found that elevated CO2 decreased the specific growth rate while increasing the cellular particulate organic carbon (POC) and nitrogen (PON) contents and the POC/PON ratio of E. huxleyi in the light/dark period. After 96 h of dark acclimation, the cell abundance decreased more obviously at 20°C than at 16°C but showed no significant difference between the two CO2 treatments. The decrease in volumetric POC concentration was most prominent in the high CO2/20°C treatment and least in the ambient CO2/16°C treatment. At 16°C, the PON concentration increased in the high CO2 cultures and exhibited no change in the ambient CO2 cultures. While at 20°C, the PON concentration decreased significantly both under high and ambient CO2 conditions. The final POC/PON ratio showed no significant differences among the different temperature and CO2 treatments. Overall, a higher percentage of POC relative to that of PON was lost in darkness with increasing CO2 concentration, with potential implications for the ocean’s nutrient cycle.

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Malformation in coccolithophores in low pH waters: evidences from the eastern Arabian Sea

Oceanic calcifying plankton such as coccolithophores is expected to exhibit sensitivity to climate change stressors such as warming and acidification. Observational studies on coccolithophore communities along with carbonate chemistry provide important perceptions of possible adaptations of these organisms to ocean acidification. However, this phytoplankton group remains one of the least studied in the northern Indian Ocean. In 2017, the biogeochemistry group at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research-National Institute of Oceanography (CSIR-NIO) initiated a coccolithophore monitoring study in the eastern Arabian Sea (EAS). Here, we document for the first time a detailed spatial and seasonal distribution of coccolithophores and their controlling factors from the EAS, which is a well-known source of CO2 to the atmosphere. To infer the seasonality, data collected at three transects (Goa, Mangalore, and Kochi) during the Southwest Monsoon (SWM) of 2018 was compared with that of the late SWM of 2017. Apart from this, the abundance of coccolithophores was studied at the Candolim Time Series (CaTS) transect, off Goa during the Northeast Monsoon (NEM). The most abundant coccolithophore species found in the study region was Gephyrocapsa oceanica. A high abundance of G. oceanica (1800 × 103cells L−1) was observed at the Mangalore transect during the late SWM despite experiencing low pH and can be linked to nitrogen availability. The high abundance of G. oceanica at Mangalore was associated with high dimethylsulphide (DMS). Particulate inorganic carbon (PIC) and scattering coefficient retrieved from satellites also indicated a high abundance of coccolithophores off Mangalore during the late SWM of 2017. Interestingly, G. oceanica showed malformation during the late SWM in low pH waters. Malformation in coccolithophores could have a far-reaching impact on the settling fluxes of organic matter and also on the emissions of climatically important gases such as DMS and CO2, thus influencing atmospheric chemistry. The satellite data for PIC in the EAS indicates a high abundance of coccolithophore in recent years, especially during the warm El Nino years (2015 and 2018). This warrants the need for a better assessment of the fate of coccolithophores in high-CO2 and warmer oceans.

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Interaction of CO2 and light availability on photophysiology of tropical coccolithophorids (Emiliania huxleyi, Gephyrocapsa oceanica, and Ochosphaera sp.)

The study to examine the calcification rate, adaptation, and the biotic response of three tropical coccolithophorids (Emiliania huxleyi, Gephyrocapsa oceanica, and Ochosphaera sp) to changes in CO2 concentration. Three selected calcifying coccolitophorids were grown at batch culture with CO2 system at two levels of CO2 (385 and 1000 ppm) and two light dark periods. The parameters measured and calculation including growth rate, particulate organic carbon content, particulate inorganic carbon content, chlorophyll a, cell size, photosynthetic, organic, inorganic carbon production, photosynthesis, and calcification rate.  The results showed that there was a different response to carbonate chemistry changes and dark and light periods in any of the analyzed parameters.  The growth rate of three selected calcifying microalgae tested was decreasing significantly at high concentrations of CO2 (1000 ppm) treatment on 14:10 hour light: dark periods. However, there was no significant difference between the two CO2 concentrations where they were illuminated by 24 hours light in growth rate.  The increasing CO2 concentration and light-dark periods were species-specific responses to photosynthesis and calcification rate for three selected calcifying microalgae.

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Transitional traits determine the acclimation characteristics of the coccolithophore Chrysotila dentata to ocean warming and acidification

Ocean warming and acidification interactively affect the coccolithophore physiology and drives major biogeochemical changes. While numerous studies investigated coccolithophore under short-term conditions, knowledge on how different transitional periods over long-exposure could influence the element, macromolecular and metabolic changes for its acclimation are largely unknown. We cultured the coccolithophore Chrysotila dentata, (culture generations of 1st, 10th, and 20th) under present (low-temperature low-carbon-dioxide [LTLC]) and projected (high-temperature high-carbon-dioxide [HTHC]) ocean conditions. We examined elemental and macromolecular component changes and sequenced a transcriptome. We found that with long-exposure, most physiological responses in HTHC cells decreased when compared with those in LTLC, however, HTHC cell physiology showed constant elevation between each generation. Specifically, compared to 1st generation, the 20th generation HTHC cells showed increases in quota carbon (Qc:29%), nitrogen (QN:101%), and subsequent changes in C:N-ratio (68%). We observed higher lipid accumulation than carbohydrates within HTHC cells under long-exposure, suggesting that lipids were used as an alternative energy source for cellular acclimation. Protein biosynthesis pathways increased their efficiency during long-term HTHC condition, indicating that cells produced more proteins than required to initiate acclimation. Our findings suggest that the coccolithophore resilience increased between the 1st–10th generation to initiate the acclimation process under ocean warming and acidifying conditions.

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Ocean acidification affects pigment concentration and photoprotection of marine phytoplankton

Ocean acidification produces significant changes on phytoplankton physiology that can affect their growth and primary production. Among them, a downregulation of the enzymatic activity and the production of different cellular metabolites, including chlorophyll a (Chl a), has been observed in high CO2 cultures under stable conditions. However, the extent of how phytoplankton metabolism regulation under high CO2 conditions affects pigment pools and patterns is unknown. This study shows the effect of the atmospheric CO2 increase on pigment concentration of three important marine primary producers: Thalassiosira pseudonanaSkeletonema costatum, and Emiliania huxleyi. Cultures grown under saturating photosynthetically active radiation were aerated for at least 3 weeks with current concentrations of atmospheric CO2 (0.04% CO2 in air) and with CO2 concentrations expected for future scenarios of climate change (0.1% CO2 in air) to assess the effect of CO2 under acclimated metabolism and stable conditions. Moreover, cultures were also subjected to a perturbation (4 h without aeration) to assess responses under non-stable conditions. The results showed that light harvesting and photoprotective pigment concentrations (i.e., Chl a, Chl c2, ββ-carotene, diadinoxanthin, diatoxanthin, fucoxanthin, among others) decreased significantly under high CO2 and stable conditions, but the response reversed after the perturbation. The de-epoxidation state of xanthophylls, also showed similar patterns, indicating an increase in phytoplankton sensitivity under high CO2 and stable conditions. The results demonstrate the relevance of CO2 concentration and acclimation status for phytoplankton light absorption and photoprotective response. They also identify fucoxanthin and Chl c2 as suitable biomarkers of phytoplankton carbon metabolism under ocean acidification conditions.

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Antagonism toxicity of CuO nanoparticles and mild ocean acidification to marine algae

Graphical abstract

The toxicity of CuO nanoparticles (NPs) to marine microalgae (Emiliania huxleyi) under ocean acidification (OA) conditions (pHs 8.10, 7.90, 7.50) was investigated. CuO NPs (5.0 mg/L) caused significant toxicity (e.g., 48-h growth inhibition, 20%) under normal pH (8.10), and severe OA (pH 7.50) increased the toxicity of CuO NPs (e.g., 48-h growth inhibition, 68%). However, toxicity antagonism was observed with a growth inhibition (48 h) decreased to 37% after co-exposure to CuO NPs and mild OA (pH 7.90), which was attributed to the released Cu2+ ions from CuO NPs. Based on biological responses as obtained from RNA-sequencing, the dissolved Cu2+ ions (0.078 mg/L) under mild OA were found to increase algae division (by 17%) and photosynthesis (by 28%) through accelerating photosynthetic electron transport and promoting ATP synthesis. In addition, mild OA enhanced EPS secretion by 41% and further increased bioavailable Cu2+ ions, thus mitigating OA-induced toxicity. In addition, excess Cu2+ ions could be transformed into less toxic Cu2S and Cu2O based on X-ray absorption near-edge spectroscopy (XANES) and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HR-TEM), which could additionally regulate the antagonism effect of CuO NPs and mild OA. The information advances our knowledge in nanotoxicity to marine organisms under global climate change.

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Plastic responses lead to increased neurotoxin production in the diatom Pseudo-nitzschia under ocean warming and acidification

Ocean warming (OW) and acidification (OA) are recognized as two major climatic conditions influencing phytoplankton growth and nutritional or toxin content. However, there is limited knowledge on the responses of harmful algal bloom species that produce toxins. Here, the study provides quantitative and mechanistic understanding of the acclimation and adaptation responses of the domoic acid (DA) producing diatom Pseudo-nitzschia multiseries to rising temperature and pCO2 using both a one-year in situ bulk culture experiment, and an 800-day laboratory acclimation experiment. Ocean warming showed larger selective effects on growth and DA metabolism than ocean acidification. In a bulk culture experiment, increasing temperature +4 °C above ambient seawater temperature significantly increased DA concentration by up to 11-fold. In laboratory when the long-term warming acclimated samples were assayed under low temperatures, changes in growth rates and DA concentrations indicated that P. multiseries did not adapt to elevated temperature, but could instead rapidly and reversibly acclimate to temperature shifts. However, the warming-acclimated lines showed evidence of adaptation to elevated temperatures in the transcriptome data. Here the core gene expression was not reversed when warming-acclimated lines were moved back to the low temperature environment, which suggested that P. multiseries cells might adapt to rising temperature over longer timescales. The distinct strategies of phenotypic plasticity to rising temperature and pCO2 demonstrate a strong acclimation capacity for this bloom-forming toxic diatom in the future ocean.

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Acclimatization of a coral-dinoflagellate mutualism at a CO2 vent

Ocean acidification caused by shifts in ocean carbonate chemistry resulting from increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations is threatening many calcifying organisms, including corals. Here we assessed autotrophy vs heterotrophy shifts in the Mediterranean zooxanthellate scleractinian coral Balanophyllia europaea acclimatized to low pH/high pCO2 conditions at a CO2 vent off Panarea Island (Italy). Dinoflagellate endosymbiont densities were higher at lowest pH Sites where changes in the distribution of distinct haplotypes of a host-specific symbiont species, Philozoon balanophyllum, were observed. An increase in symbiont C/N ratios was observed at low pH, likely as a result of increased C fixation by higher symbiont cell densities. δ13C values of the symbionts and host tissue reached similar values at the lowest pH Site, suggesting an increased influence of autotrophy with increasing acidification. Host tissue δ15N values of 0‰ strongly suggest that diazotroph N2 fixation is occurring within the coral tissue/mucus at the low pH Sites, likely explaining the decrease in host tissue C/N ratios with acidification. Overall, our findings show an acclimatization of this coral-dinoflagellate mutualism through trophic adjustment and symbiont haplotype differences with increasing acidification, highlighting that some corals are capable of acclimatizing to ocean acidification predicted under end-of-century scenarios.

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Fresh and saline submarine groundwater discharge as sources of carbon and nutrients to the Japan Sea


  • Fresh groundwater was comparable to the discharge from rivers and the main source of carbon, phosphate, and nitrate to coastal waters.
  • Groundwater-derived alkalinity fluxes were 7 times greater than river inputs, buffering the coastal ocean.
  • Nutrient and chlorophyll observations revealed the strong influence of groundwater discharge on primary productivity.


Submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) is an important pathway for carbon and nutrients to the coastal ocean, sometimes exceeding river inputs. SGD fluxes can have implications for long-term carbon storage, ocean acidification and nutrient dynamics. Here, we used radium (223Ra and 226Ra) isotopes to quantify SGD-derived fluxes of dissolved inorganic (DIC) and organic (DOC) carbon, nitrate (NO3), nitrite (NO2), ammonium (NH4+) and phosphate (PO43−) in a spring-fed coastal bay in the Japan Sea. The average coastal water residence times using 223Ra/226Ra ratios was 32.5 ± 17.9 days. Fresh and saline SGD were estimated using a radium mixing model with short- and long-lived isotopes. The volume of fresh SGD entering the bay (4.6 ± 4.6 cm day−1) was more than twice that of the volume of saline SGD (1.9 ± 2.1 cm day−1). Fresh SGD (mmol m2 day−1) was the main source of DOC (2.7 ± 2.6), DIC (13.9 ± 13.7), PO43− (0.3 ± 0.3) and NO3 (6.6 ± 6.5) to the coastal ocean, whereas saline SGD was the main source of NH4+ (0.2 ± 0.2). Total SGD-derived carbon and nutrient fluxes were 4 – 7 and 2–16 times greater than local river inputs. Positive correlations between chlorophyll-a, 226Ra and δ13C-DIC indicate that SGD significantly (p < 0.05) enhances primary productivity nearshore. Overall, fresh SGD of nitrogen and carbon to seawater drove chlorophyll-a, decreased DIC/Alkalinity ratios, and modified the carbonate biogeochemistry of the coastal ocean.

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Potential effects of climate change on the growth response of the toxic dinoflagellate Karenia selliformis from Patagonian waters of Chile

Northern Patagonia (41–44°S) is affected by climatic, hydrological and oceanographic anomalies, which in synergy with processes such as global warming and acidification of the coastal oceans may affect the frequency and intensity of harmful algal blooms (HABs). Greater frequency of HABs has been reported in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, including blooms of the toxic dinoflagellate Karenia selliformis, causing massive mortality of marine fauna in the oceanic and coastal areas of Patagonia. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of temperature and pH interaction on the growth of K. selliformis (strain CREAN_KS02), since these factors have wide seasonal fluctuations in the Patagonian fjord ecosystem. The CREAN_KS02 strain isolated from the Aysén Region (43°S) was used in a factorial experiment with five pH levels (7.0, 7.4, 7.7, 8.1 and 9.0) and two temperatures (12 and 17 °C) during a period of 18–21 days. Results indicated a significant effect of temperature and pH interaction on growth rate (range 0.22 ± 0.00 to 0.08 ± 0.01 d−1) and maximum density (range 13,710 ± 2,616 to 2,385 ± 809 cells mL−1) of K. selliformis. The highest density and growth of K. selliformis was found at 12 °C with a reduced pH (7.0–7.7). The results suggest that the current environmental conditions of coastal Patagonia, waters of low temperature and relatively low pH, may be favorable for the development of blooms of this species during autumn. We suggest that there is natural plasticity of K. selliformis in a wide pH range (7.0–8.1) but in a narrow low temperature range (10.6–12.9 °C), values that are typically recorded in the oceanic region of northern Patagonia. In contrast, in an extreme climate change scenario (ocean warming and coastal acidification) in northern Patagonia, a negative effect on the growth of K. selliformis may be expected due to amplification of the acidification effects caused by the thermal stress of high temperature water.

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Effects of global environmental change on microalgal photosynthesis, growth and their distribution

Global climate change (GCC) constitutes a complex challenge posing a serious threat to biodiversity and ecosystems in the next decades. There are several recent studies dealing with the potential effect of increased temperature, decrease of pH or shifts in salinity, as well as cascading events of GCC and their impact on human-environment systems. Microalgae as primary producers are a sensitive compartment of the marine ecosystems to all those changes. However, the potential consequences of these changes for marine microalgae have received relatively little attention and they are still not well understood. Thus, there is an urgent need to explore and understand the effects generated by multiple climatic changes on marine microalgae growth and biodiversity. Therefore, this review aimed to compare and contrast mechanisms that marine microalgae exhibit to directly respond to harsh conditions associated with GCC and the potential consequences of those changes in marine microalgal populations. Literature shows that microalgae responses to environmental stressors such as temperature were affected differently. A stress caused by salinity might slow down cell division, reduces size, ceases motility, and triggers palmelloid formation in microalgae community, but some of these changes are strongly species-specific. UV irradiance can potentially lead to an oxidative stress in microalgae, promoting the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) or induce direct physical damage on microalgae, then inhibiting the growth of microalgae. Moreover, pH could impact many groups of microalgae being more tolerant of certain pH shifts, while others were sensitive to changes of just small units (such as coccolithophorids) and subsequently affect the species at a higher trophic level, but also total vertical carbon transport in oceans. Overall, this review highlights the importance of examining effects of multiple stressors, considering multiple responses to understand the complexity behind stressor interactions.

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Elevated CO2 reduces copper accumulation and toxicity in the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana

The projected ocean acidification (OA) associated with increasing atmospheric CO2 alters seawater chemistry and hence the bio-toxicity of metal ions. However, it is still unclear how OA might affect the long-term resilience of globally important marine microalgae to anthropogenic metal stress. To explore the effect of increasing pCO2 on copper metabolism in the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana (CCMP 1335), we employed an integrated eco-physiological, analytical chemistry, and transcriptomic approach to clarify the effect of increasing pCO2 on copper metabolism of Thalassiosira pseudonana across different temporal (short-term vs. long-term) and spatial (indoor laboratory experiments vs. outdoor mesocosms experiments) scales. We found that increasing pCO2 (1,000 and 2,000 μatm) promoted growth and photosynthesis, but decreased copper accumulation and alleviated its bio-toxicity to T. pseudonana. Transcriptomics results indicated that T. pseudonana altered the copper detoxification strategy under OA by decreasing copper uptake and enhancing copper-thiol complexation and copper efflux. Biochemical analysis further showed that the activities of the antioxidant enzymes glutathione peroxidase (GPX), catalase (CAT), and phytochelatin synthetase (PCS) were enhanced to mitigate oxidative damage of copper stress under elevated CO2. Our results provide a basis for a better understanding of the bioremediation capacity of marine primary producers, which may have profound effect on the security of seafood quality and marine ecosystem sustainability under further climate change.

Continue reading ‘Elevated CO2 reduces copper accumulation and toxicity in the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana’

Effect of plankton composition shifts in the North Atlantic on atmospheric pCO2


Marine carbon cycle processes are important for taking up atmospheric CO2 thereby reducing climate change. Net primary and export production are important pathways of carbon from the surface to the deep ocean where it is stored for millennia. Climate change can interact with marine ecosystems via changes in the ocean stratification and ocean circulation. In this study we use results from the Community Earth System Model version 2 (CESM2) to assess the effect of a changing climate on biological production and phytoplankton composition in the high latitude North Atlantic Ocean. We find a shift in phytoplankton type dominance from diatoms to small phytoplankton which reduces net primary and export productivity. Using a conceptual carbon-cycle model forced with CESM2 results, we give a rough estimate of a positive phytoplankton composition-atmospheric CO2 feedback of approximately 60 GtCO2/°C warming in the North Atlantic which lowers the 1.5° and 2.0°C warming safe carbon budgets.

Key Points

  • Biological production decreases significantly in the high latitude North Atlantic in Community Earth System Model version 2 under the SSP5-8.5 scenario
  • Phytolankton type dominance shifts from diatoms to small phytoplankton
  • A positive feedback loop is diagnosed where changes in the physical system decrease biological production, reducing oceanic uptake of CO2
Continue reading ‘Effect of plankton composition shifts in the North Atlantic on atmospheric pCO2’

Climate-driven changes of global marine mercury cycles in 2100


One concern caused by the changes in the ocean due to climate change is the potential increase of neurotoxic methylmercury content in seafood. This work quantifies the impact of global change factors on marine mercury cycles. The air–sea exchange is influenced by wind speed weakening and solubility drop of mercury due to seawater warming. The decreased biological pump shrinks the methylation substrate and causes weaker methylation. The advantageous light environment resulting from less attenuation by sea ice and phytoplankton increases the photodegradation potential for seawater methylmercury. Responses of seawater methylmercury can propagate to biota, which is also modulated by the changes in anthropogenic emissions and ocean ecology. Our results offer insight into interactions among different climate change stressors.


Human exposure to monomethylmercury (CH3Hg), a potent neurotoxin, is principally through the consumption of seafood. The formation of CH3Hg and its bioaccumulation in marine food webs experience ongoing impacts of global climate warming and ocean biogeochemistry alterations. Employing a series of sensitivity experiments, here we explicitly consider the effects of climate change on marine mercury (Hg) cycling within a global ocean model in the hypothesized twenty-first century under the business-as-usual scenario. Even though the overall prediction is subjected to significant uncertainty, we identify several important climate change impact pathways. Elevated seawater temperature exacerbates elemental Hg (Hg0) evasion, while decreased surface wind speed reduces air–sea exchange rates. The reduced export of particulate organic carbon shrinks the pool of potentially bioavailable divalent Hg (HgII) that can be methylated in the subsurface ocean, where shallower remineralization depth associated with lower productivity causes impairment of methylation activity. We also simulate an increase in CH3Hg photodemethylation potential caused by increased incident shortwave radiation and less attenuation by decreased sea ice and chlorophyll. The model suggests that these impacts can also be propagated to the CH3Hg concentration in the base of the marine food web. Our results offer insight into synergisms/antagonisms in the marine Hg cycling among different climate change stressors.

Continue reading ‘Climate-driven changes of global marine mercury cycles in 2100’

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