Research Highlight

Physiological responses of coastal and oceanic diatoms to diurnal fluctuations in seawater carbonate chemistry under two CO22 concentrations
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Abstract: Diel and seasonal fluctuations in seawater carbonate chemistry are common in coastal waters, while in the open-ocean carbonate chemistry is much less variable. In both of these environments, ongoing ocean acidification is being superimposed on the natural dynamics of the carbonate buffer system to influence the physiology of phytoplankton. Here, we show that a coastal Thalassiosira weissflogii isolate and an oceanic diatom, Thalassiosira oceanica, respond differentially to diurnal fluctuating carbonate chemistry in current and ocean acidification (OA) scenarios. A fluctuating carbonate chemistry regime showed positive or negligible effects on physiological performance of the coastal species. In contrast, the oceanic species was significantly negatively affected. The fluctuating regime reduced photosynthetic oxygen evolution rates and enhanced dark respiration rates of T. oceanica under ambient CO2 concentration, while in the OA scenario the fluctuating regime depressed its growth rate, chlorophyll a content, and elemental production rates. These contrasting physiological performances of coastal and oceanic diatoms indicate that they differ in the ability to cope with dynamic pCO2. We propose that, in addition to the ability to cope with light, nutrient, and predation pressure, the ability to acclimate to dynamic carbonate chemistry may act as one determinant of the spatial distribution of diatom species. Habitat-relevant diurnal changes in seawater carbonate chemistry can interact with OA to differentially affect diatoms in coastal and pelagic waters.

Figure 1. Measured pH values under different treatments over a diel cycle. LCs (blue closed triangles): steady regime under ambient CO2 level; LCf (blue open triangles): fluctuating regime under ambient CO2 level; HCs (red closed circles): steady regime under elevated CO2 level; HCf (red open circles): fluctuating regime under elevated CO2 level.

 

Figure 2 Specific growth rate, respiration rate, POC and PON production rates of the oceanic diatom Thalassiosira oceanica in steady (columns without hatching) and fluctuating  (columns with hatching) regimes under ambient (LC, blue columns) and elevated (HC, red columns) CO2 levels.

 

 

Reference:  Li, F., Wu, Y., Hutchins, D. A., Fu, F., and Gao, K.: Physiological responses of coastal and oceanic diatoms to diurnal fluctuations in seawater carbonate chemistry under two CO2 concentrations, Biogeosciences, 13, 6247-6259, doi:10.5194/bg-13-6247-2016, 2016.

Link to full text: http://www.biogeosciences.net/13/6247/2016/bg-13-6247-2016.pdf