Effect of CO 2 concentration on C : N : P ratio in marine phytoplankton: A species comparison

  • Burkhardt S
  • Zondervan I
  • Riebesell U
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The effect of variable concentrations of dissolved molecular carbon dioxide, [CO2,aq], on C:N:P ratios in marine phytoplankton was studied in batch cultures under high light, nutrient-replete conditions at different irradiance cycles. The elemental composition in six out of seven species tested was affected by variation in [CO2,aq]. Among these species, the magnitude of change in C:N:P was similar over the experimental CO2 range. Differences in both cell size and day length- dependent growth rate had little effect on the critical CO2 concentration below which a further decrease in [CO2,aq] led to large changes in C:N:P ratios. Significant CO2-related changes in elemental ratios were observed at [CO2,aq] < 10 mu mol kg-l and correlated with a CO2-dependent decrease in growth rate. At [CO2,aq] typical for ocean surface waters, variation in C:N:P was relatively small under our experimental conditions. No general pattern far CO2-related changes in the elemental composition could be found with regard to the direction of trends. Either an increase or a decrease in C:N and C:P with increasing [CO2,aq] was observed, depending on the species tested. Diurnal variation in C:N and C:P, tested in Skeletonema costatum, was of a similar magnitude as CO2-related variation. In this species, the CO2 effect was superimposed on diurnal variation, indicating that differences in elemental ratios at the end of the photoperiod were not caused by a transient buildup of carbon-rich storage compounds due to a more rapid accumulation of carbohydrates at high CO2 concentrations. If our results obtained under high light, nutrient-replete conditions are representative for natural phytoplankton populations, CO2-related changes in plankton stoichiometry are unlikely to have a significant effect on the oceanic carbon cycle

Author-supplied keywords

  • CO2
  • Carbohydrates
  • Carbon
  • Carbon cycle
  • Diurnal
  • Ocean
  • Phytoplankton
  • Stoichiometry
  • Surface waters
  • Variation
  • carbon dioxide
  • elemental composition
  • growth
  • plankton
  • water

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  • S Burkhardt

  • I Zondervan

  • U Riebesell

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