Living in a high CO2 world

Living in a high CO2 world - Plant Ecology & Diversity...

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Vol. 2, No. 2, June 2009, 191–205 ISSN 1755-0874 print/ISSN 1755-1668 online DOI: 10.1080/17550870903271363 TPED Living in a high CO 2 world: impacts of global climate change on marine phytoplankton Living in a high CO2 world John Beardall a *, Slobodanka Stojkovic a,b and Stuart Larsen a a School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia; b CSIRO, Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia ( Received 2 June 2009; final version received 19 August 2009 ) The planet is currently going through a period of global climate change, the pace of which is unprecedented in geological history. Marine phytoplankton contribute approximately 50% of the total global primary productivity and play a vital role in global carbon cycling. Consequently it is extremely important to understand the impact that global climate change will have on the ecological performance of these organisms. In this review we summarise current understanding of the influence that global climate change has on the physiological properties, productivity and assemblage composition of marine phytoplank- ton. While most phytoplankton are likely to show little direct effect of elevated CO 2 on photosynthetic rates, some, includ- ing the ecologically important coccolithophorids, are likely to show significant stimulation of growth. The rise in temperature consequent upon the elevated atmospheric levels of CO 2 and other greenhouse gases will stimulate growth of some species and increase ocean temperatures in some areas beyond their current optima. However, more importantly, increasing global temperatures will stimulate stratification of the water column which, in tropical and mid-latitudes will exacerbate nutrient limitation in surface waters. This in turn will lead to changes in phytoplankton assemblage composition, primary productivity and sensitivity to UVB radiation. Keywords: elevated CO 2 ; global climate change; ocean acidification; phytoplankton; primary productivity; sea surface temperature; UV radiation Introduction It is now indisputable that the environment is going through a period of rapid change globally (elevated CO 2 , ocean acidifi- cation, temperature rises and increased UV radiation), the pace of which is unprecedented in our geological history. Atmospheric levels of CO 2 have increased dramatically since the onset of the Industrial Revolution and, from concentra- tions of c. 280 ppm in the late eighteenth century, are now 386 ppm (Tans 2009). Concentrations of CO 2 in the atmos- phere are predicted to reach between approximately 750 and 1000 ppm by the year 2100, depending on the model used for future projections (Meehl et al. 2007). Such a shift in atmos- pheric CO 2 translates to significant changes in the inorganic carbon availability in seawater. Thus for a three-fold increase in atmospheric CO 2 from the pre-industrial level (a rise to
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Living in a high CO2 world - Plant Ecology & Diversity...

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