How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

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Marine Bacterial Communities in a Future CO2-Enriched World

Paper Reviewed
Oliver, A.E., Newbold, L.K., Whiteley, A.S. and van der Gast, C.J. 2014. Marine bacterial communities are resistant to elevated carbon dioxide levels. Environmental Microbiology Reports 6: 574-582.

Oliver et al. (2014) introduce the report of their study of marine bacterial communities in a future CO2-enriched world by noting that "marine microbes play an essential role in marine biogeochemical cycles central to the biological chemistry of the Earth with around 50% of global primary production attributed to phytoplanktonic bacteria and protists," citing Field et al. (1998). And with this fact as the primary basis for their experiment, they go on to describe how they "investigated the direct effects of elevated CO2, contrasted with ambient conditions, on the resistance and resilience of marine bacterial communities in a replicated temporal seawater mesocosm experiment."

At the conclusion of their study, the four researchers found that "marine bacterial communities are highly resistant to the elevated CO2 and lower pH conditions, as demonstrated from measures of turnover using taxa-time relationships and distance-decay relationships." Also, they report that "no significant differences in community abundance, structure or composition were observed." And based on these findings, they conclude that "there are no direct effects on marine bacterial communities and that the bacterial fraction of microbial plankton holds enough flexibility and evolutionary capacity to withstand predicted future changes from elevated CO2 and subsequent ocean acidification," further citing in this regard the studies of Liu et al. (2010) and Joint et al. (2011).

Last of all, and enlarging on their ultimate conclusion, Oliver et al. note that the CO2 change imposed in their study was meant to simulate conditions likely to be faced in 100 years' time, which, in their words, "represents millions of bacterial generations," such that "the scope for evolutionary adaptation is huge."

Field, C.B., Behrenfeld, M.J., Randerson, J.T. and Falkowski, P. 1998. Primary production of the biosphere: integrating terrestrial and oceanic components. Science 281: 237-240.

Joint, I., Doney, S.C. and Karl, D.M. 2011. Will ocean acidification affect marine microbes? The ISME Journal 5: 1-7.

Liu, J., Weinbauer, M.G., Maier, C., Dai, M. and Gattuso, J.-P. 2010. Effect of ocean acidification on microbial diversity and on microbe-driven biogeochemistry and ecosystem functioning. Aquatic Microbial Ecology 61: 291-305.

Posted 30 March 2015