Influence of ocean acidification on a natural winter-to-summer plankton succession: First insights from a long-term mesocosm study draw attention to periods of low nutrient concentrations

Lennart T. Bach, Jan Taucher, Tim Boxhammer, Andrea Ludwig, Nicole Aberle-Malzahn, Katarina Abrahamsson, Anna Karin Almén, Maria E. Asplund, Saskia Audritz, Maarten Boersma, Eike Breitbarth, Christopher Bridges, Corina Brussaard, Andreas Brutemark, Catriona Clemmesen, Sinead Collins, Kate Crawfurd, Flemming Dahlke, Mario Deckelnick, Thorsten DittmarRalf Doose, Sam Dupont, Tim Eberlein, Sonja Endres, Anja Engel, Jonna Engström-Öst, Sarah Febiri, Dirk Fleischer, Peter Fritsche, Martha Gledhill, Gwendolin Göttler, Maria Granberg, Hans Peter Grossart, Amy Grifos, Linn Hoffmann, Anders Karlsson, Michael Klages, Uwe John, Fredrik Jutfelt, Irina Köster, Julia Lange, Elettra Leo, Silke Lischka, Kai Lohbeck, Bengt Lundve, Felix Christopher Mark, Michael Meyerhöfer, Maike Nicolai, Christian Pansch, Berne Petersson, Thorsten Reusch, Karlos Ribeiro De Moraes, Markus Schartau, Matias Scheinin, Kai G. Schulz, Ursula Schwarz, Marcus Stenegren, Martina Stiasny, Daniela Storch, Annegret Stuhr, Lennart Sswat, Maria Svensson, Peter Thor, Maren Voss, Dedmer Van De Waal, Nicola Wannicke, Sylke Wohlrab, Angela Wulff, Eric P. Achterberg, María Algueró-Muñiz, Leif G. Anderson, Jessica Bellworthy, Jan Büdenbender, Jan Czerny, Ylva Ericson, Mario Esposito, Matthias Fischer, Mathias Haunost, Dana Hellemann, Henriette G. Horn, Thomas Hornick, Jana Meyer, Michael Sswat, Maren Zark, Ulf Riebesell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Every year, the oceans absorb about 30% of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) leading to a re-equilibration of the marine carbonate system and decreasing seawater pH. Today, there is increasing awareness that these changes-summarized by the term ocean acidification (OA)-could differentially affect the competitive ability of marine organisms, thereby provoking a restructuring of marine ecosystems and biogeochemical element cycles. In winter 2013, we deployed ten pelagic mesocosms in the Gullmar Fjord at the Swedish west coast in order to study the effect of OA on plankton ecology and biogeochemistry under close to natural conditions. Five of the ten mesocosms were left unperturbed and served as controls (∼380 μatm pCO2), whereas the others were enriched with CO2-saturated water to simulate realistic end-of-the-century carbonate chemistry conditions (∼760 μatm pCO2). We ran the experiment for 113 days which allowed us to study the influence of high CO2 on an entire winter-to-summer plankton succession and to investigate the potential of some plankton organisms for evolutionary adaptation to OA in their natural environment. This paper is the first in a PLOS collection and provides a detailed overview on the experimental design, important events, and the key complexities of such a "long-term mesocosm" approach. Furthermore, we analyzed whether simulated end-of-the-century carbonate chemistry conditions could lead to a significant restructuring of the plankton community in the course of the succession. At the level of detail analyzed in this overview paper we found that CO2-induced differences in plankton community composition were non-detectable during most of the succession except for a period where a phytoplankton bloom was fueled by remineralized nutrients. These results indicate: (1) Long-term studies with pelagic ecosystems are necessary to uncover OA-sensitive stages of succession. (2) Plankton communities fueled by regenerated nutrients may be more responsive to changing carbonate chemistry than those having access to high inorganic nutrient concentrations and may deserve particular attention in future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0159068
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2016


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