Posts Tagged 'phytoplankton'



Physiological and biochemical responses of Thalassiosira weissflogii (diatom) to seawater acidification and alkalization

Increasing atmospheric pCO2 leads to seawater acidification, which has attracted considerable attention due to its potential impact on the marine biological carbon pump and function of marine ecosystems. Alternatively, phytoplankton cells living in coastal waters might experience increased pH/decreased pCO2 (seawater alkalization) caused by metabolic activities of other photoautotrophs, or after microalgal blooms. Here we grew Thalassiosira weissflogii (diatom) at seven pCO2 levels, including habitat-related lowered levels (25, 50, 100, and 200 µatm) as well as present-day (400 µatm) and elevated (800 and 1600 µatm) levels. Effects of seawater acidification and alkalization on growth, photosynthesis, dark respiration, cell geometry, and biogenic silica content of T. weissflogii were investigated. Elevated pCO2 and associated seawater acidification had no detectable effects. However, the lowered pCO2 levels (25 ∼ 100 µatm), which might be experienced by coastal diatoms in post-bloom scenarios, significantly limited growth and photosynthesis of this species. In addition, seawater alkalization resulted in more silicified cells with higher dark respiration rates. Thus, a negative correlation of biogenic silica content and growth rate was evident over the pCO2 range tested here. Taken together, seawater alkalization, rather than acidification, could have stronger effects on the ballasting efficiency and carbon export of T. weissflogii.

Continue reading ‘Physiological and biochemical responses of Thalassiosira weissflogii (diatom) to seawater acidification and alkalization’

Impact of ocean acidification and high solar radiation on productivity and species composition of a late summer phytoplankton community of the coastal Western Antarctic Peninsula

The Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), one of the most productive regions of the Southern Ocean, is currently undergoing rapid environmental changes such as ocean acidification (OA) and increased daily irradiances from enhanced surface‐water stratification. To assess the potential for future biological CO2 sequestration of this region, we incubated a natural phytoplankton assemblage from Ryder Bay, WAP, under a range of pCO2 levels (180 μatm, 450 μatm, and 1000 μatm) combined with either moderate or high natural solar radiation (MSR: 124 μmol photons m−2 s−1 and HSR: 435 μmol photons m−2 s−1, respectively). The initial and final phytoplankton communities were numerically dominated by the prymnesiophyte Phaeocystis antarctica, with the single cells initially being predominant and solitary and colonial cells reaching similar high abundances by the end. Only when communities were grown under ambient pCO2 in conjunction with HSR did the small diatom Fragilariopsis pseudonana outcompete P. antarctica at the end of the experiment. Such positive light‐dependent growth response of the diatom was, however, dampened by OA. These changes in community composition were caused by an enhanced photosensitivity of diatoms, especially F. pseudonana, under OA and HSR, reducing thereby their competitiveness toward P. antarctica. Moreover, community primary production (PP) of all treatments yielded similar high rates at the start and the end of the experiment, but with the main contributors shifting from initially large to small cells toward the end. Even though community PP of Ryder Bay phytoplankton was insensitive to the changes in light and CO2 availability, the observed size‐dependent shift in productivity could, however, weaken the biological CO2 sequestration potential of this region in the future.

Continue reading ‘Impact of ocean acidification and high solar radiation on productivity and species composition of a late summer phytoplankton community of the coastal Western Antarctic Peninsula’

Effects of elevated CO2 on a natural diatom community in the subtropical NE Atlantic

Diatoms are silicifying phytoplankton contributing about one quarter to primary production on Earth. Ocean acidification (OA) could alter the competitiveness of diatoms relative to other taxa and/or lead to shifts among diatom species. In spring 2016, we set up a plankton community experiment at the coast of Gran Canaria (Canary Islands, Spain) to investigate the response of subtropical diatom assemblages to elevated seawater pCO2. Therefore, natural plankton communities were enclosed for 32 days in in situ mesocosms (∼8 m3 volume) with a pCO2 gradient ranging from 380 to 1140 μatm. Halfway through the study we added nutrients to all mesocosms (N, P, Si) to simulate injections through eddy-induced upwelling which frequently occurs in the region. We found that the total diatom biomass remained unaffected during oligotrophic conditions but was significantly positively affected by high CO2 after nutrient enrichment. The average cell volume and carbon content of the diatom community increased with CO2. CO2 effects on diatom biomass and species composition were weak during oligotrophic conditions but became quite strong above ∼620 μatm after the nutrient enrichment. We hypothesize that the proliferation of diatoms under high CO2 may have been caused by a fertilization effect on photosynthesis in combination with reduced grazing pressure. Our results suggest that OA in the subtropics may strengthen the competitiveness of (large) diatoms and cause changes in diatom community composition, mostly under conditions when nutrients are injected into oligotrophic systems.

Continue reading ‘Effects of elevated CO2 on a natural diatom community in the subtropical NE Atlantic’

A comparison of species specific sensitivities to changing light and carbonate chemistry in calcifying marine phytoplankton

Coccolithophores are unicellular marine phytoplankton and important contributors to global carbon cycling. Most work on coccolithophore sensitivity to climate change has been on the small, abundant bloom-forming species Emiliania huxleyi and Gephyrocapsa oceanica. However, large coccolithophore species can be major contributors to coccolithophore community production even in low abundances. Here we fit an analytical equation, accounting for simultaneous changes in CO2 and light intensity, to rates of photosynthesis, calcification and growth in Scyphosphaera apsteinii. Comparison of responses to G. oceanica and E. huxleyi revealed S. apsteinii is a low-light adapted species and, in contrast, becomes more sensitive to changing environmental conditions when exposed to unfavourable CO2 or light. Additionally, all three species decreased their light requirement for optimal growth as CO2 levels increased. Our analysis suggests that this is driven by a drop in maximum rates and, in G. oceanica, increased substrate uptake efficiency. Increasing light intensity resulted in a higher proportion of muroliths (plate-shaped) to lopadoliths (vase shaped) and liths became richer in calcium carbonate as calcification rates increased. Light and CO2 driven changes in response sensitivity and maximum rates are likely to considerably alter coccolithophore community structure and productivity under future climate conditions.

Continue reading ‘A comparison of species specific sensitivities to changing light and carbonate chemistry in calcifying marine phytoplankton’

Ichthyotoxicity of the dinoflagellate Karlodinium veneficum in response to changes in seawater pH

The ichthyotoxic dinoflagellate Karlodinium veneficum has a worldwide distribution and produces highly potent lytic toxins (karlotoxins) that have been associated with massive fish kill events in coastal environments. The capacity of K. veneficum to gain energy from photosynthesis as well as phagotrophy enables cellular maintenance, growth and dispersal under a broad range of environmental conditions. Coastal ecosystems are highly dynamic in light of the prevailing physicochemical conditions, such as seawater carbonate speciation (CO2, HCO3−, and CO32−) and pH. Here, we monitored the growth rate and ichthyotoxicity of K. veneficum in response to a seawater pH gradient. K. veneficum exhibited a significant linear reduction in growth rate with elevated seawater acidity [pH(totalscale) from 8.05 to 7.50]. Ichthyotoxicity was assessed by exposing fish gill cells to K. veneficum extracts and subsequent quantification of gill cell viability via resorufin fluorescence. Extracts of K. veneficum indicated increased toxicity when derived from elevated pH treatments. The variation in growth rate and toxin production per cell in regard to seawater pH implies that (1) future alteration of seawater carbonate speciation, due to anthropogenic ocean acidification, may negatively influence physiological performance and ecosystem interactions of K. veneficum and (2) elevated seawater pH values (>8.0) represent favorable conditions for K. veneficum growth and toxicity. This suggests that prey of K. veneficum may be exposed to increased karlotoxin concentrations at conditions when nutrients are scarce and seawater pH has been elevated due to high photosynthetic activity from prior autotrophic phytoplankton blooms.

Continue reading ‘Ichthyotoxicity of the dinoflagellate Karlodinium veneficum in response to changes in seawater pH’

Hyposalinity tolerance inthecoccolithophorid Emiliania huxleyi under the influence of ocean acidification involves enhanced photosynthetic performance

While seawater acidification induced by elevated CO2 is known to impact coccolithophores, the effects in combination with decreased salinity caused by sea ice melting and/or hydrological events have not been documented. Here we show the combined effects of seawater acidification and reduced salinity on growth, photosynthesis and calcification of Emiliania huxleyi grown at 2 CO2 concentrations (low CO2 LC: 400 μatm; high CO2 HC: 1000 μatm) and 3 levels of salinity (25, 30 and 35 ‰). A decrease of salinity from 35 to 25‰ increased growth rate, cell size and effective photochemical efficiency under both LC or HC. Calcification rates were relatively insensitive to combined effects of salinity and OA treatment but were highest under 3 5‰ and HC conditions, with higher ratios of calcification to photosynthesis (C : P) in the cells grown under 35 ‰ compared with those grown at 25 ‰. In addition, elevated dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) concentration at the salinity of 35 ‰ stimulated its calcification. In contrast, photosynthetic carbon fixation increased almost linearly with decreasing salinity, regardless of the pCO2 treatments. When subjected to short-term exposure to high light, the low-salinity-grown cells showed the highest photochemical effective quantum yield with the highest repair rate, though HC treatment enhanced PSII damage rate. Our results suggest Emiliania huxleyi can tolerate low salinity plus acidification conditions by up-regulating its photosynthetic performance together with a relatively insensitive calcification response, which may help it better adapt to future ocean global environmental changes, especially in the coastal areas of high latitudes.

Continue reading ‘Hyposalinity tolerance inthecoccolithophorid Emiliania huxleyi under the influence of ocean acidification involves enhanced photosynthetic performance’

Bicarbonate enrichment may mitigate oxidative stress in two octocorals and their photosynthetic symbionts

The ecological communities built by corals are some of the most biodiverse in the world, and the current rate of climate change threatens their long-term persistence, with mass coral bleaching events becoming more frequent. Ocean acidification (OA) is one consequence of increased atmospheric CO2 that results in changes in seawater carbon chemistry with the potential to impact organisms that rely on seawater dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) for calcification, photosynthesis, or both. Corals are unique animals that participate in a symbiotic relationship with dinoflagellate algae of the genus Symbiodinium spp., in which the algal symbionts translocate most of the products of photosynthesis to their host coral. To fuel photosynthesis, the algal symbionts must obtain inorganic carbon from seawater via their coral host. As such, symbionts may be particularly sensitive to the changes in the seawater DIC pool that will result from ongoing OA. Projected increases in seawater bicarbonate (HCO3-) ion concentration associated with OA may act to supplement symbiont photosynthesis, and could potentially mitigate that effects of other stressors that lead to photoinhibition and subsequent production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS may ultimately trigger coral bleaching. The research presented here focuses on the effects of ocean acidification, specifically bicarbonate enrichment, on the photo-physiological stress response of two representative octocoral species, Sympodium sp. and Sarcothelia sp., and their symbionts. Bicarbonate enrichment experiments were carried out and fluorescence microscopy was used to visualize the production of ROS in hospite (within the host) in light stressed colonies of both octocoral species. Additional bicarbonate enrichment experiments were conducted in which oxygen metabolism was measured in colonies of Sympodium sp. The results presented here suggest that bicarbonate enrichment may act to alleviate oxidative stress resulting from photoinhibition, possibly by supplementing symbiont photosynthesis under saturating irradiance.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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