We studied the direct effects of CO2 and related changes in seawater carbonate chemistry on marine planktonic organisms in a mesocosm experiment. In nine outdoor enclosures (~11 m3 each), the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) in the seawater was modified by an aeration system. The triplicate mesocosm treatments represented low (~190 parts per million by volume (ppmV) CO2), present (~410 ppmV CO2), and high (~710 ppmV CO2) pCO2 conditions. After initial fertilization with nitrate and phosphate a bloom dominated by the coccolithophorid Emiliania huxleyi occurred simultaneously in all of the nine mesocosms; it was monitored over a 19-day period. The three CO2 treatments assimilated nitrate and phosphate similarly. The concentration of particulate constituents was highly variable among the replicate mesocosms, disguising direct CO2-related effects. Normalization of production rates within each treatment, however, indicated that the net specific growth rate of E. huxleyi, the rate of calcification per cell, and the elemental stoichiometry of uptake and production processes were sensitive to changes in pCO2. This broad influence of CO2 on the E. huxleyi bloom suggests that changes in CO2 concentration directly affect cell physiology with likely effects on the marine biogeochemistry.
Helmholtz Research Programs > MARCOPOLI (2004-2008) > MAR2-Palaeo Climate Mechanisms and Variability