A small change with a large impact

A small change with a large impact

Mesocosm experiment reveals how community interactions amplify the response of a calcifying phytoplankton species to ocean acidification


14 December 2016, Kiel/Bergen/Southern Cross. Coccolithophores, single-celled calcifying phytoplankton that play a key role in the Earth’s climate system, might loose their competitive fitness in a future ocean. In a field experiment investigating the effects of ocean acidification on the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi in its natural community, the organism lost its ability to form blooms. It is especially in these periods of exponential growth that the algae contribute massively to elemental cycling, including the transport of carbon to the deep ocean. Based on their observations, a team of researchers led by GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel concludes, that a small physiological response to ocean acidification was amplified through ecological interactions largely enough to cause a massive impact on the ecosystem. The results of the study are published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Original publication:

Riebesell, U., Bach, L.T., Bellerby, R.G.J., Bermudez Monsalve, R., Boxhammer, T., Czerny, J., Larsen, A., Ludwig, A., Schulz, K.G. (2016): Competitive fitness of a predominant pelagic calcifier impaired by ocean acidification. Nature Geoscience XXX, doi: 10.1038/NGEO2854



www.geomar.de GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany

www.niva.no Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA)

www.fimcbor.espol.edu.ec Facultad de Ingeniería Marítima, Ciencias Biológicas, Oceánicas y Recursos Naturales. Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral, Ecuador

www.imr.no Hjort Centre for Marine Ecosystem Dynamics, Uni Research Environment

http://scu.edu.au/coastal-biogeochemistry Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry, Southern Cross University, Australia

sopran.pangaea.de SOPRAN (Surface Ocean Processes in the Anthropocene)

www.bioacid.de BIOACID (Biological impacts of Ocean Acidification).