The effect of ocean acidification on the fatty acid composition of a natural plankton community in the Arctic was studied in a large-scale mesocosm experiment, carried out in Kongsfjorden (Svalbard, Norway) at 79° N. Nine mesocosms of ~50 cbm each were exposed to different pCO2 levels (from natural background conditions to ~1420 μatm), yielding pH values (on the total scale) from ~8.3 to 7.5. Inorganic nutrients were added on day 13. The phytoplankton development during this 30 days experiment passed three distinct phases: (1) prior to the addition of inorganic nutrients, (2) first bloom after nutrient addition, and (3) second bloom after nutrient addition. The fatty acid composition of the natural plankton community was analysed and showed, in general, high percentages of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs): 44–60% of total fatty acids. Positive correlations with pCO2 were found for most PUFAs during phases 2 and/or 3, with the exception of 20:5n3 (eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA), an important diatom marker. There are strong indications for these correlations being mediated indirectly through taxonomic changes and the natural development of the communities in the mesocosms exposed to different pCO2 levels. While diatoms increased during phase 3 mainly in the low and intermediate pCO2 treatments, dinoflagellates were favoured by high CO2 concentrations during the same time period. This is reflected in the development of group-specific fatty acid trophic markers. No indications were found for a generally detrimental effect of ocean acidification on the planktonic food quality in terms of essential fatty acids. The significant positive correlations between most PUFAs and pCO2 reflected treatment-dependent differences in the community composition between the mesocosms rather than a direct positive effect of pCO2 on specific fatty acids.
Leu E., Daase M., Schulz K. G., Stuhr A. & Riebesell U., 2012. Effect of ocean acidification on the fatty acid composition of a natural plankton community. Biogeosciences Discussions 9: 8173-8197. Article.