Article | Published:

Variation in plastic responses of a globally distributed picoplankton species to ocean acidification

Nature Climate Change volume 3, pages 298302 (2013) | Download Citation

Abstract

Phytoplankton are the basis of marine food webs, and affect biogeochemical cycles. As CO2 levels increase, shifts in the frequencies and physiology of ecotypes within phytoplankton groups will affect their nutritional value and biogeochemical function. However, studies so far are based on a few representative genotypes from key species. Here, we measure changes in cellular function and growth rate at atmospheric CO2 concentrations predicted for the year 2100 in 16 ecotypes of the marine picoplankton Ostreococcus. We find that variation in plastic responses among ecotypes is on par with published between-genera variation, so the responses of one or a few ecotypes cannot estimate changes to the physiology or composition of a species under CO2 enrichment. We show that ecotypes best at taking advantage of CO2 enrichment by changing their photosynthesis rates most should increase in relative fitness, and so in frequency in a high-CO2 environment. Finally, information on sampling location, and not phylogenetic relatedness, is a good predictor of ecotypes likely to increase in frequency in this system.

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Acknowledgements

This study was conducted at the University of Edinburgh (UK) and the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (Germany). The research was supported by a Royal Society (UK) University Research Fellowship (S.C.), the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013), ERC grant agreement 205150 (B.R.) and a Scottish Universities Life Science Alliance scholarship (E.S.). We thank M. Allen and ASSEMBLE (Association of European Marine Biology Laboratories) Roscoff for providing the Ostreococcus ecotypes; H. Kuehne, S. Reece and T. Reusch for advice on the manuscript; J. Raven for advice concerning the experiments; and S. Rokitta, K-U. and U. Richter for assistance in the laboratory at the AWI.

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Affiliations

  1. University of Edinburgh, Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Ashworth Laboratories, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JF, UK

    • Elisa Schaum
    •  & Sinéad Collins
  2. Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Am Handelshafen, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany

    • Björn Rost
  3. University of Edinburgh, Centre for Systems Biology at Edinburgh, C.H. Waddington Building, Mayfield Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JD, UK

    • Andrew J. Millar

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Contributions

E.S. designed and performed the experiments, analysed data and wrote the manuscript. S.C. designed the experiments, analysed data, wrote the manuscript and supervised laboratory work. B.R. supervised the laboratory work at the Alfred-Wegener-Institute and contributed to the manuscript. A.J.M. contributed to the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Elisa Schaum.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1774

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