The Relationship between Phytoplankton Ecology and Marine Pollution

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Water and Climate Change".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (9 September 2023) | Viewed by 8506

Special Issue Editor

Department of Environmental Sciences, College of the Coast and Environment, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA
Interests: water pollution; phytoplankton ecology topic; marine pollution and phytoplankton ecology
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Pollution caused by human activities has changed the marine environment in a variety of ways that have impacted marine phytoplankton, and those impacts are likely to be even greater in the future. In coastal waters, discharges of nutrient-laden wastewaters have shifted phytoplankton growth rate limitations from nutrients toward light and favored species that have less tendency to sink or that are able to regulate their position in the water column (e.g., dinoflagellates). In coastal embayments such as the Baltic Sea and Chesapeake Bay, dense blooms of phytoplankton have dramatically reduced the amount of light reaching the bottom. The result has been the loss of benthic algae and the habitat that they provide for many estuarine species. CO2 emissions are causing temperatures to rise, and these increases have been the greatest at high latitudes and during the winter months. The Arctic Ocean is projected to be ice-free by the end of the summer of roughly 2050. The absence of snow and ice on the surface will dramatically increase the amount of sunlight available to phytoplankton and will reduce the albedo of the Arctic Ocean. The latter effect will lead to temperature increases of 10°C or more at high latitudes in the northern hemisphere and will accelerate the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. The result will be an influx of freshwater to the Arctic and North Atlantic that will stratify the water column and restrict vertical mixing and the associated supply of allochthonous nutrients. Finally, over the course of several hundred years anthropogenic emissions of CO2 will lead to ocean acidification and a reduction in the pH of ocean surface waters to as low as 7.5. The resultant decrease in the concentrations of carbonate ions will greatly restrict calcification by coccolithophores as well as corals, pteropods, oysters, clams, and other marine calcifiers, some of which are predators of marine phytoplankton.

Prof. Dr. Edward Laws
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • eutrophication
  • climate change
  • ocean acidification
  • Arctic Ocean
  • light limitation
  • nutrient limitation

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

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17 pages, 1512 KiB  
Article
Sedimentary Records of Phytoplankton Communities in Sanmen Bay in China: The Impacts of ENSO Events over the Past Two Centuries
Water 2023, 15(7), 1255; https://doi.org/10.3390/w15071255 - 23 Mar 2023
Viewed by 1253
Abstract
Phytoplankton communities, showing significant spatiotemporal variation within bay areas, play an important role in the structure and function of nearshore marine ecosystems. However, the absence of long-term high-resolution datasets has hindered our understanding of the effect of ENSO-driven environmental changes on phytoplankton communities [...] Read more.
Phytoplankton communities, showing significant spatiotemporal variation within bay areas, play an important role in the structure and function of nearshore marine ecosystems. However, the absence of long-term high-resolution datasets has hindered our understanding of the effect of ENSO-driven environmental changes on phytoplankton communities in coastal ecosystems. Herein, by performing biomarker inversion analyses on two centuries’ worth of sedimentary organisms in the Sanmen Bay area, we observed a marked El Niño/La Niña-related succession; specifically, that El Niño-induced warming had increased the biomass of phytoplankton by 57.89%, while also increasing the proportion of diatoms by 76.40%. In contrast, La Niña years exhibited a decrease in the biomass of phytoplankton by 54.23%. Further, over three decades of observational data from the Sanmen Bay suggest that La Niña years can promote occasional blooms through monsoonal mixing and land-based inputs. Consequently, the nearshore marine ecosystem of the bay area, being subject to intense anthropogenic activity and land–sea interactions, can be said to be influenced by global-scale ocean–atmosphere processes. Going forward, the connection between short-term extreme events and long-term changes in the nearshore marine ecosystem should receive greater attention. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Relationship between Phytoplankton Ecology and Marine Pollution)
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15 pages, 7911 KiB  
Article
Photoinhibition of the Picophytoplankter Synechococcus Is Exacerbated by Ocean Acidification
Water 2023, 15(6), 1228; https://doi.org/10.3390/w15061228 - 21 Mar 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1591
Abstract
The marine picocyanobacterium Synechococcus accounts for a major fraction of the primary production across the global oceans. However, knowledge of the responses of Synechococcus to changing pCO2 and light levels has been scarcely documented. Hence, we grew Synechococcus sp. CB0101 at [...] Read more.
The marine picocyanobacterium Synechococcus accounts for a major fraction of the primary production across the global oceans. However, knowledge of the responses of Synechococcus to changing pCO2 and light levels has been scarcely documented. Hence, we grew Synechococcus sp. CB0101 at two CO2 concentrations (ambient CO2 AC:410 μatm; high CO2 HC:1000 μatm) under various light levels between 25 and 800 μmol photons m−2 s−1 for 10–20 generations and found that the growth of Synechococcus strain CB0101 is strongly influenced by light intensity, peaking at 250 μmol m−2 s−1 and thereafter declined at higher light levels. Synechococcus cells showed a range of acclimation in their photophysiological characteristics, including changes in pigment content, optical absorption cross section, and light harvesting efficiency. Elevated pCO2 inhibited the growth of cells at light intensities close to or greater than saturation, with inhibition being greater under high light. Elevated pCO2 also reduced photosynthetic carbon fixation rates under high light but had smaller effects on the decrease in quantum yield and maximum relative electron transport rates observed under increasing light intensity. At the same time, the elevated pCO2 significantly decreased particulate organic carbon (POC) and particulate organic nitrogen (PON), particularly under low light. Ocean acidification, by increasing the inhibitory effects of high light, may affect the growth and competitiveness of Synechococcus in surface waters in the future scenario. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Relationship between Phytoplankton Ecology and Marine Pollution)
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Review

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15 pages, 4970 KiB  
Review
The Future of Cyanobacteria Toxicity in Estuaries Undergoing Pulsed Nutrient Inputs: A Case Study from Coastal Louisiana
Water 2023, 15(21), 3816; https://doi.org/10.3390/w15213816 - 31 Oct 2023
Viewed by 1645
Abstract
Harmful cyanobacteria blooms (cyanoHABs) are a global phenomenon, especially in calm, warm, and nutrient-rich freshwater and estuarine systems. These blooms can produce various potent toxins responsible for animal poisoning and human health problems. Nutrient-rich freshwater pulsed into estuaries affects turbidity, water temperature, salinity, [...] Read more.
Harmful cyanobacteria blooms (cyanoHABs) are a global phenomenon, especially in calm, warm, and nutrient-rich freshwater and estuarine systems. These blooms can produce various potent toxins responsible for animal poisoning and human health problems. Nutrient-rich freshwater pulsed into estuaries affects turbidity, water temperature, salinity, and nutrient concentrations and ratios at irregular intervals, creating a highly dynamic habitat. However, the underlying processes that lead to the selective development of cyanoHABs for certain species and the fate of their toxins are still uncertain. This paper draws upon the rich body of research available for one such system, the Lake Pontchartrain Estuary, Louisiana, to generate insights about future research directions in pulsed-nutrient-delivery estuaries. Toxin-producing cyanobacteria blooms in river-dominated Louisiana coastal ecosystems have already been documented at high concentrations, presenting a potential risk to human health as $2.4 billion worth of Louisiana’s fish and shellfish are consumed by millions of people throughout the US every year. Recent studies have shown that the Lake Pontchartrain Estuary, just north of New Orleans, Louisiana has been experiencing cyanoHABs, likely connected to combinations of (a) high interannual variability in nutrient loading associated with seasonal and episodic rainfall, (b) the timing, duration, and magnitude of the flood-stage Mississippi River water diverted into the Lake Pontchartrain Estuary, and (c) saltwater inputs from tropical storms. It is expected that cyanoHABs will become more frequent in Louisiana with a warming climate and changes to the timing and magnitude of river water diverted into the Lake Pontchartrain Estuary, which will play a dominant role in the development of blooms in this region. More studies are needed to focus on the environmental conditions that control the succession or/and co-existence of different cyanobacteria species and their toxins, optimally culminating in a near-term forecasting tool since this information is critical for health agencies to mitigate or to provide early warnings. Toxin forecasts for pulsed-nutrient estuaries, including Lake Pontchartrain, could directly inform state and municipal health agencies on human exposure risks to upcoming cyanobacteria toxicity events by predicting cyanobacteria species shifts, potency, and toxin modality along the freshwater-to-marine continuum while also informing a longer-term projection on how the changing climate will impact the frequency and potency of such blooms. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Relationship between Phytoplankton Ecology and Marine Pollution)
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19 pages, 1108 KiB  
Review
Aquatic Productivity under Multiple Stressors
Water 2023, 15(4), 817; https://doi.org/10.3390/w15040817 - 20 Feb 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3527
Abstract
Aquatic ecosystems are responsible for about 50% of global productivity. They mitigate climate change by taking up a substantial fraction of anthropogenically emitted CO2 and sink part of it into the deep ocean. Productivity is controlled by a number of environmental factors, [...] Read more.
Aquatic ecosystems are responsible for about 50% of global productivity. They mitigate climate change by taking up a substantial fraction of anthropogenically emitted CO2 and sink part of it into the deep ocean. Productivity is controlled by a number of environmental factors, such as water temperature, ocean acidification, nutrient availability, deoxygenation and exposure to solar UV radiation. Recent studies have revealed that these factors may interact to yield additive, synergistic or antagonistic effects. While ocean warming and deoxygenation are supposed to affect mitochondrial respiration oppositely, they can act synergistically to influence the migration of plankton and N2-fixation of diazotrophs. Ocean acidification, along with elevated pCO2, exhibits controversial effects on marine primary producers, resulting in negative impacts under high light and limited availability of nutrients. However, the acidic stress has been shown to exacerbate viral attacks on microalgae and to act synergistically with UV radiation to reduce the calcification of algal calcifiers. Elevated pCO2 in surface oceans is known to downregulate the CCMs (CO2 concentrating mechanisms) of phytoplankton, but deoxygenation is proposed to enhance CCMs by suppressing photorespiration. While most of the studies on climate-change drivers have been carried out under controlled conditions, field observations over long periods of time have been scarce. Mechanistic responses of phytoplankton to multiple drivers have been little documented due to the logistic difficulties to manipulate numerous replications for different treatments representative of the drivers. Nevertheless, future studies are expected to explore responses and involved mechanisms to multiple drivers in different regions, considering that regional chemical and physical environmental forcings modulate the effects of ocean global climate changes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Relationship between Phytoplankton Ecology and Marine Pollution)
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