Articles | Volume 7, issue 11
24 Nov 2010
 | 24 Nov 2010

Phytoplankton-bacteria coupling under elevated CO2 levels: a stable isotope labelling study

A. de Kluijver, K. Soetaert, K. G. Schulz, U. Riebesell, R. G. J. Bellerby, and J. J. Middelburg

Abstract. The potential impact of rising carbon dioxide (CO2) on carbon transfer from phytoplankton to bacteria was investigated during the 2005 PeECE III mesocosm study in Bergen, Norway. Sets of mesocosms, in which a phytoplankton bloom was induced by nutrient addition, were incubated under 1× (~350 μatm), 2× (~700 μatm), and 3× present day CO2 (~1050 μatm) initial seawater and sustained atmospheric CO2 levels for 3 weeks. 13C labelled bicarbonate was added to all mesocosms to follow the transfer of carbon from dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) into phytoplankton and subsequently heterotrophic bacteria, and settling particles. Isotope ratios of polar-lipid-derived fatty acids (PLFA) were used to infer the biomass and production of phytoplankton and bacteria. Phytoplankton PLFA were enriched within one day after label addition, whilst it took another 3 days before bacteria showed substantial enrichment. Group-specific primary production measurements revealed that coccolithophores showed higher primary production than green algae and diatoms. Elevated CO2 had a significant positive effect on post-bloom biomass of green algae, diatoms, and bacteria. A simple model based on measured isotope ratios of phytoplankton and bacteria revealed that CO2 had no significant effect on the carbon transfer efficiency from phytoplankton to bacteria during the bloom. There was no indication of CO2 effects on enhanced settling based on isotope mixing models during the phytoplankton bloom, but this could not be determined in the post-bloom phase. Our results suggest that CO2 effects are most pronounced in the post-bloom phase, under nutrient limitation.

Final-revised paper