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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 530:63-75 (2015)  -  DOI:

Impact of elevated pH on succession in the Arctic spring bloom

Karen Riisgaard1,*, Torkel Gissel Nielsen1,2, Per Juel Hansen3

1National Institute of Aquatic Resources, DTU Aqua, Section for Oceanography and Climate, Technical University of Denmark, Kavalergården 6, 2920 Charlottenlund, Denmark
2Greenland Climate Research Centre, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, PO Box 570, 3900 Nuuk, Greenland
3Centre for Ocean Life, Marine Biological Section, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Strandpromenaden 5, 3000 Helsingør, Denmark
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The development of pH during the spring bloom of 2011 and 2012 was investigated in Disko Bay, West Greenland. During the spring phytoplankton bloom, pH reached 8.5 at the peak of the bloom and subsequently decreased to 7.5. Microcosm experiments were conducted on natural assemblages sampled at the initiation of the spring bloom each year and pH levels were manipulated in the range of 8.0-9.5 to test the immediate tolerance of Arctic protist plankton to elevated pH under nutrient-limiting (2011) and nutrient-rich conditions (2012). The most pronounced effect of elevated pH was found for heterotrophic protists, whereas phytoplankton proved more robust. Two out of 3 heterotrophic protist species were significantly affected if pH increased above 8.5, and all heterotrophic protists had disappeared at pH 9.5. Based on chl a measurements from the 2 sets of experiments, phytoplankton community growth was significantly reduced at pH 9.5 during nutrient-rich conditions, while pH had little impact on nutrient-limited phytoplankton growth. The results were supported by cell counts which revealed that phytoplankton growth during nutrient-rich conditions was significantly reduced from an average of 0.49 d-1 at pH 8.0 to an average of 0.27 d-1 at pH 9.5. In comparison, only 1 out of 4 tested phytoplankton species was significantly affected by elevated pH under nutrient-limited conditions. Sudden pH fluctuations, such as those occurring during phytoplankton blooms, will most likely favour pH-tolerant species, such as diatoms.

KEY WORDS: pH · Arctic phytoplankton · Spring bloom · Growth rates · Phaeocystis pouchetii · Heterotrophic protists

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Cite this article as: Riisgaard K, Nielsen TG, Hansen PJ (2015) Impact of elevated pH on succession in the Arctic spring bloom. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 530:63-75.

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