Macroalgal responses to ocean acidification depend on nutrient and light levels
Celis-PlA, PSM and Hall-Spencer, JM and Horta, PA and Milazzo, M and Korbee, N and Cornwall, CE and Figueroa, FL, Macroalgal responses to ocean acidification depend on nutrient and light levels, Frontiers in Marine Science, 2, (MAY) Article 26. ISSN 2296-7745 (2015) [Refereed Article]
Ocean acidification may benefit algae that are able to capitalize on increased carbon availability for photosynthesis, but it is expected to have adverse effects on calcified algae through dissolution. Shifts in dominance between primary producers will have knock-on effects on marine ecosystems and will likely vary regionally, depending on factors such as irradiance (light vs. shade) and nutrient levels (oligotrophic vs. eutrophic). Thus experiments are needed to evaluate interactive effects of combined stressors in the field. In this study, we investigated the physiological responses of macroalgae near a CO2 seep in oligotrophic waters off Vulcano (Italy). The algae were incubated in situ at 0.2 m depth using a combination of three mean CO2 levels (500, 700–800 and 1200 μatm CO2), two light levels (100 and 70% of surface irradiance) and two nutrient levels of N, P, and K (enriched vs. non-enriched treatments) in the non-calcified macroalga Cystoseira compressa (Phaeophyceae, Fucales) and calcified Padina pavonica (Phaeophyceae, Dictyotales). A suite of biochemical assays and in vivo chlorophyll a fluorescence parameters showed that elevated CO2 levels benefitted both of these algae, although their responses varied depending on light and nutrient availability. In C. compressa, elevated CO2 treatments resulted in higher carbon content and antioxidant activity in shaded conditions both with and without nutrient enrichment—they had more Chla, phenols and fucoxanthin with nutrient enrichment and higher quantum yield (Fv/Fm) and photosynthetic efficiency (αETR) without nutrient enrichment. In P. pavonica, elevated CO2 treatments had higher carbon content, Fv/Fm, αETR, and Chla regardless of nutrient levels—they had higher concentrations of phenolic compounds in nutrient enriched, fully-lit conditions and more antioxidants in shaded, nutrient enriched conditions. Nitrogen content increased significantly in fertilized treatments, confirming that these algae were nutrient limited in this oligotrophic part of the Mediterranean. Our findings strengthen evidence that brown algae can be expected to proliferate as the oceans acidify where physicochemical conditions, such as nutrient levels and light, permit.