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J. Mar. Sci. Eng. 2015, 3(4), 1425-1447; doi:10.3390/jmse3041425

Marine Microphytobenthic Assemblage Shift along a Natural Shallow-Water CO2 Gradient Subjected to Multiple Environmental Stressors

Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre, School of Marine Science and Engineering, Plymouth University, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK
The Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK
Department of Earth and Marine Sciences, University of Palermo, I-90123 Palermo, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Magnus Wahlberg
Received: 18 August 2015 / Revised: 14 October 2015 / Accepted: 18 November 2015 / Published: 1 December 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ocean Acidification and Marine Biodiversity)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [3077 KB, uploaded 1 December 2015]   |  


Predicting the effects of anthropogenic CO2 emissions on coastal ecosystems requires an understanding of the responses of algae, since these are a vital functional component of shallow-water habitats. We investigated microphytobenthic assemblages on rock and sandy habitats along a shallow subtidal pCO2 gradient near volcanic seeps in the Mediterranean Sea. Field studies of natural pCO2 gradients help us understand the likely effects of ocean acidification because entire communities are subjected to a realistic suite of environmental stressors such as over-fishing and coastal pollution. Temperature, total alkalinity, salinity, light levels and sediment properties were similar at our study sites. On sand and on rock, benthic diatom abundance and the photosynthetic standing crop of biofilms increased significantly with increasing pCO2. There were also marked shifts in diatom community composition as pCO2 levels increased. Cyanobacterial abundance was only elevated at extremely high levels of pCO2 (>1400 μatm). This is the first demonstration of the tolerance of natural marine benthic microalgae assemblages to elevated CO2 in an ecosystem subjected to multiple environmental stressors. Our observations indicate that Mediterranean coastal systems will alter as pCO2 levels continue to rise, with increased photosynthetic standing crop and taxonomic shifts in microalgal assemblages. View Full-Text
Keywords: cyanobacteria; diatoms; Mediterranean; microphytobenthos; ocean acidification; multiple stressors cyanobacteria; diatoms; Mediterranean; microphytobenthos; ocean acidification; multiple stressors

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Johnson, V.R.; Brownlee, C.; Milazzo, M.; Hall-Spencer, J.M. Marine Microphytobenthic Assemblage Shift along a Natural Shallow-Water CO2 Gradient Subjected to Multiple Environmental Stressors. J. Mar. Sci. Eng. 2015, 3, 1425-1447.

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