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Sensitivity of coccolithophores to carbonate chemistry and ocean acidification
Beaufort, L.; Probert, I.; de Garidel-Thoron, T.; Bendif, E.M.; Ruiz-Pino, D.; Metzl, N.; Goyet, C.; Buchet, N.; Coupel, P.; Grelaud, M.; Rost, B.; Rickaby, R.E.M.; de Vargas, C. (2011). Sensitivity of coccolithophores to carbonate chemistry and ocean acidification. Nature (Lond.) 476(7358): 80-83. dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature10295
In: Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science. Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 0028-0836, more
Peer reviewed article

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Keywords
    Acidification; Carbon dioxide; Coccolithophoridae; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Beaufort, L.
  • Probert, I.
  • de Garidel-Thoron, T.
  • Bendif, E.M.
  • Ruiz-Pino, D.
  • Metzl, N.
  • Goyet, C.
  • Buchet, N.
  • Coupel, P.
  • Grelaud, M.
  • Rost, B.
  • Rickaby, R.E.M.
  • de Vargas, C.

Abstract
    About one-third of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere as a result of human activity has been absorbed by the oceans, where it partitions into the constituent ions of carbonic acid. This leads to ocean acidification, one of the major threats to marine ecosystems and particularly to calcifying organisms such as corals, foraminifera and coccolithophores. Coccolithophores are abundant phytoplankton that are responsible for a large part of modern oceanic carbonate production. Culture experiments investigating the physiological response of coccolithophore calcification to increased CO2 have yielded contradictory results between and even within species. Here we quantified the calcite mass of dominant coccolithophores in the present ocean and over the past forty thousand years, and found a marked pattern of decreasing calcification with increasing partial pressure of CO2 and concomitant decreasing concentrations of CO32-. Our analyses revealed that differentially calcified species and morphotypes are distributed in the ocean according to carbonate chemistry. A substantial impact on the marine carbon cycle might be expected upon extrapolation of this correlation to predicted ocean acidification in the future. However, our discovery of a heavily calcified Emiliania huxleyi morphotype in modern waters with low pH highlights the complexity of assemblage-level responses to environmental forcing factors.

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