Articles | Volume 10, issue 1
Research article
22 Jan 2013
Research article |  | 22 Jan 2013

Response of bacterioplankton activity in an Arctic fjord system to elevated pCO2: results from a mesocosm perturbation study

J. Piontek, C. Borchard, M. Sperling, K. G. Schulz, U. Riebesell, and A. Engel

Abstract. The effect of elevated seawater carbon dioxide (CO2) on the activity of a natural bacterioplankton community in an Arctic fjord system was investigated by a mesocosm perturbation study in the frame of the European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA). A pCO2 range of 175–1085 μatm was set up in nine mesocosms deployed in the Kongsfjorden (Svalbard). The activity of natural extracellular enzyme assemblages increased in response to acidification. Rates of β-glucosidase and leucine-aminopeptidase increased along the gradient of mesocosm pCO2. A decrease in seawater pH of 0.5 units almost doubled rates of both enzymes.

Heterotrophic bacterial activity was closely coupled to phytoplankton productivity in this experiment. The bacterioplankton community responded to rising chlorophyll a concentrations after a lag phase of only a few days with increasing protein production and extracellular enzyme activity. Time-integrated primary production and bacterial protein production were positively correlated, strongly suggesting that higher amounts of phytoplankton-derived organic matter were assimilated by heterotrophic bacteria at increased primary production. Primary production increased under high pCO2 in this study, and it can be suggested that the efficient heterotrophic carbon utilisation had the potential to counteract the enhanced autotrophic CO2 fixation. However, our results also show that beneficial pCO2-related effects on bacterial activity can be mitigated by the top-down control of bacterial abundances in natural microbial communities.

Final-revised paper