Articles | Volume 6, issue 7
Biogeosciences, 6, 1199–1207, 2009

Special issue: The ocean in the high-CO2 world II

Biogeosciences, 6, 1199–1207, 2009

  17 Jul 2009

17 Jul 2009

Effects of the pH/pCO2 control method on medium chemistry and phytoplankton growth

D. Shi1,*, Y. Xu1,*, and F. M. M. Morel1 D. Shi et al.
  • 1Department of Geosciences, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA
  • *These two authors contributed equally to the work.

Abstract. The control of key chemical parameters in phytoplankton cultures, such as pCO2, pH and Ω (the saturation state of calcium carbonate), is made difficult by the interdependence of these parameters and by the changes resulting from the growth of the organisms, such as CO2 fixation, nutrient uptake and, for coccolithophores, calcite precipitation. Even in cultures where pCO2 or pH is maintained constant, other chemical parameters change substantially at high cell densities. Experimentally we observed that various methods of adjustment of pCO2/pH – acid or base addition, use of buffers or pH-stats, or bubbling of CO2-enriched air – can be used, the choice of one or the other depending on the goals of the experiments. At seawater pH, we measured the same growth rates in cultures of the diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii where the pCO2/pH was controlled by these different methods. The pH/pCO2 control method also did not affect the rates of growth or calcification of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi at seawater pH. At lower pH/higher pCO2, in the E. huxleyi strain PLY M219, we observed increases in rates of carbon fixation and calcification per cell, along with a slight increase in growth rate, except in bubbled cultures. In our hands, the bubbling of cultures seemed to induce more variable results than other methods of pCO2/pH control. While highly convenient, the addition of pH buffers to the medium apparently induces changes in trace metal availability and cannot be used under trace metal-limiting conditions.

Final-revised paper