Short-term response of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi to an abrupt change in seawater carbon dioxide concentrations
- Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences, IFM-GEOMAR Düsternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany
Abstract. The response of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi to rising CO2 concentrations is well documented for acclimated cultures where cells are exposed to the CO2 treatments for several generations prior to the experiment. The exact number of generations required for acclimation to CO2-induced changes in seawater carbonate chemistry, however, is unknown. Here we show that Emiliania huxleyi's short-term response (26 h) after cultures (grown at 500 μatm) were abruptly exposed to changed CO2 concentrations (~190, 410, 800 and 1500 μatm) is similar to that obtained with acclimated cultures under comparable conditions in earlier studies. Most importantly, from the lower CO2 levels (190 and 410 μatm) to 750 and 1500 μatm calcification decreased and organic carbon fixation increased within the first 8 to 14 h after exposing the cultures to changes in carbonate chemistry. This suggests that Emiliania huxleyi rapidly alters the rates of essential metabolical processes in response to changes in seawater carbonate chemistry, establishing a new physiological "state" (acclimation) within a matter of hours. If this relatively rapid response applies to other phytoplankton species, it may simplify interpretation of studies with natural communities (e.g. mesocosm studies and ship-board incubations), where often it is not feasible to allow for a pre-conditioning phase before starting experimental incubations.