Primary producers and future ocean scenarios : effect of environmental change on biomolecular composition of phytoplankton and transference to higher trophic levels

Bermudez Monsalve, Jorge Rafael (2014) Primary producers and future ocean scenarios : effect of environmental change on biomolecular composition of phytoplankton and transference to higher trophic levels (Doctoral thesis/PhD), Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel, Kiel, Germany, 163 pp

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An increasing body of research emphasizes that various biological processes in marine organisms are affected due to the uptake of anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 by the ocean in a process termed as ocean acidification (OA). The magnitude and direction of OA effects varies greatly among species and genotypes, highlighting different capabilities to adapt to increasing CO2. Direct OA impacts can be expected in the biochemical and elemental composition of primary producers (PP), which may be transferred to higher trophic levels, while indirect impacts can derive from altered trophic interactions as OA can modify plankton community composition. Fatty acids (FA) are the main component of lipids and cell membranes, with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) having additional important physiological and metabolic roles. Phytoplankton is the main source of essential biomolecules for heterotrophs as they cannot synthesize them de novo. Transference of organic essential macromolecules, in particular PUFA from phytoplankton-to-zooplankton-to-fish is a key factor influencing the life cycle of many organisms including humans. In the present work was investigated how OA influences the food quality of primary producers in terms of their fatty acid makeup at specie and community level, and how these OA-driven changes in the algae affect the fatty acid profile and life cycle of consumers. A combination of short- and long-term experiments on individual algal species, interaction between a single primary producer and one consumer, and natural plankton communities encompassing several producers and consumers were conducted in laboratory and natural conditions. In the short-term experiments at species level, the first and second laboratory study showed that CO2 can affect the biochemical composition of the diatoms Thalassiosira pseudonana and Cylindrotheca fusiformis, reducing their PUFA content; additionally the second diatom showed a reduced amount of amino acids. The interaction between a single primary producer and one consumer showed that when T. pseudonana cultured under high CO2 was used to feed the copepod Acartia tonsa, it affected their FA composition, severely impaired development and egg production rates. This demonstrated that a direct OA-driven shift in algal food quality can influence the reproduction success of upper trophic levels. At the community level, the third study conducted in a North Sea natural plankton assemblage subjected to a CO2 gradient showed that OA can modify phytoplankton community structures by favoring small phytoplankton cells with a comparatively low PUFA content. This community shift reduced PUFA content in primary producers was linked to a gradual PUFA decline in the dominant copepod species Calanus finmarchicus. In contrary, the fourth study revealed that the natural plankton community of the Baltic Sea experienced small differences in the algal community composition between CO2 treatments. The PUFA profile of the PP was influenced by phosphorus availability in the mesocosms, which was reflected by the PUFA composition of the copepod Acartia tonsa and Eurytemora affinis, but showed no significant CO2-related changes. This indicates that OA can affect the plankton community composition and its associated PUFA content, however this effect is lower in environments where communities are exposed to natural occurring high CO2 fluctuations like in the Baltic Sea, and that other essential nutrients have a stronger influence in the algal FA profile when present in limited amounts. In the long term experiments at species level, the fourth study determined that the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi and the diazotrophic cyanobacterium Trichodesmium sp. cultured over a thousand generations at high CO2 conditions showed a change in their FA content and composition. The FA profile of both algae presented a differentiate adaptation to high CO2 and particularly PUFA, which have metabolic functions in the cells, displayed evidence of adaptive evolution in both algae. These results highlight the diversity of OA responses among single plankton species and communities and that changes in biomolecular composition at the base of the marine food web are transferred to primary consumers. The thesis also highlights that the magnitude and direction of CO2-effects likely depends on the CO2 conditions and fluctuations the organisms are adapted to.

Document Type: Thesis (Doctoral thesis/PhD)
Thesis Advisors: Winder, Monika and Riebesell, Ulf
Keywords: fatty acids, ocean acidification, climate change; Fettsäuren, Ozeanversauereung, Klimawechsel
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB2 Marine Biogeochemistry > FB2-BI Biological Oceanography
Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2017 11:51
Last Modified: 20 Mar 2019 13:16

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