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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 541:75-90 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11541

Ocean acidification as one of multiple stressors: growth response of Thalassiosira weissflogii (diatom) under temperature and light stress

Uta Passow1,*, Edward A. Laws2

1Marine Science Institute, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA
2Department of Environmental Sciences, School of the Coast and Environment, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Future shifts in phytoplankton composition and productivity are anticipated given that continuing changes are expected in environmental conditions such as temperature, the partial pressure of CO2 ( pCO2) and light climate, all of which regulate phytoplankton communities and their physiology through bottom-up control. Culture experiments revealed that future (elevated) pCO2 had no effect on Thalassiosira weissflogii in the absence of environmental stressors, whereas growth rates drastically decreased under future pCO2 when cells were grown under light and temperature stress. Reduction in growth rates and a smaller decline in cellular photosynthesis under high pCO2 were associated with 2- to 3-fold increases in the production of transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) and in the cell quotas of organic carbon, as well as a similar decrease in the C:chl a ratios. Results suggest that under light- and temperature-stressed growth, elevated pCO2 led to increased energy requirements, which were fulfilled by increased light harvesting capabilities that permitted photosynthesis of acclimatized cells to remain relatively high. This was combined with the inability of these cells to acclimatize their growth rate to sub-optimal temperatures. Consequently, growth rate was low and decoupled from photosynthesis, and this decoupling led to large cell sizes and high excretion rates in future pCO2 treatments compared to ambient treatments when growth temperature and light were sub-optimal. Under optimal growth conditions, the increased energy demands required to re-equilibrate the disturbed acid-base balance in future pCO2 treatments were likely mediated by a variety of physiological acclimatization mechanisms, individually too small to show a statistically detectable response in terms of growth rate, photosynthesis, pigment concentration, or excretion.


KEY WORDS: Thalassiosira weissflogii · Cell characteristics · Growth · Ocean acidification · Light limitation · Temperature limitation · Multi-stressor response


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Cite this article as: Passow U, Laws EA (2015) Ocean acidification as one of multiple stressors: growth response of Thalassiosira weissflogii (diatom) under temperature and light stress. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 541:75-90. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11541

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