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Limited variability in the phytoplankton Emiliania huxleyi since the pre-industrial era in the Subantarctic Southern Ocean


Rigual-Hernandez, AS and Sanchez-Santos, JM and Eriksen, R and Moy, AD and Sierro, FJ and Flores, JA and Abrantes, F and Bostok, H and Nodder, SD and Gonzalez-Lachas, A and Trull, TW, Limited variability in the phytoplankton Emiliania huxleyi since the pre-industrial era in the Subantarctic Southern Ocean, Anthropocene, 31 Article 100254. ISSN 2213-3054 (2020) [Refereed Article]


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Copyright 2020 the authors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.ancene.2020.100254


The Southern Ocean is warming faster than the average global ocean and is particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification due to its low temperatures and moderate alkalinity. Coccolithophores are the most productive calcifying phytoplankton and an important component of Southern Ocean ecosystems. Laboratory observations on the most abundant coccolithophore, Emiliania huxleyi, suggest that this species is susceptible to variations in seawater carbonate chemistry, with consequent impacts in the carbon cycle. Whether anthropogenic environmental change during the industrial era has modified coccolithophore populations in the Southern Ocean, however, remains uncertain. This study analysed the coccolithophore assemblage composition and morphometric parameters of E. huxleyi coccoliths of a suite of Holocene-aged sediment samples from south of Tasmania. The analysis suggests that dissolution diminished the mass and length of E. huxleyi coccoliths in the sediments, but the thickness of the coccoliths was decoupled from dissolution allowing direct comparison of samples with different degree of preservation. The latitudinal distribution pattern of coccolith thickness mirrors the latitudinal environmental gradient in the surface layer, highlighting the importance of the geographic distribution of E. huxleyi morphotypes on the control of coccolith morphometrics. Additionally, comparison of the E. huxleyi coccolith assemblages in the sediments with those of annual subantarctic sediment trap records found that modern E. huxleyi coccoliths are ∼2% thinner than those from the pre-industrial era. The subtle variation in coccolith thickness contrasts sharply with earlier work that documented a pronounced reduction in shell calcification and consequent shell-weight decrease of ∼30-35% on the planktonic foraminifera Globigerina bulloides induced by ocean acidification. Results of this study underscore the varying sensitivity of different marine calcifying plankton groups to ongoing environmental change.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:pre-industrial, coccolith, Southern Ocean, calcification, CO2 emissions, ocean acidification, environmental change, Southern Ocean, coccolithophores, Emiliania huxleyi
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Climate change science
Research Field:Climate change processes
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Understanding climate change
Objective Field:Effects of climate change on Antarctic and sub-Antarctic environments (excl. social impacts)
UTAS Author:Eriksen, R (Dr Ruth Eriksen)
UTAS Author:Moy, AD (Dr Andrew Moy)
UTAS Author:Trull, TW (Professor Thomas Trull)
ID Code:140426
Year Published:2020
Web of Science® Times Cited:6
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2020-08-17
Last Modified:2022-08-29
Downloads:12 View Download Statistics

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