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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 08 Jun 2020

Submitted as: research article | 08 Jun 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Ocean-related global change alters lipid biomarker production in common marine phytoplankton

Rong Bi1,2,3, Stefanie M. H. Ismar-Rebitz3, Ulrich Sommer3, Hailong Zhang1,2, and Meixun Zhao1,2 Rong Bi et al.
  • 1Frontiers Science Center for Deep Ocean Multispheres and Earth System, and Key Laboratory of Marine Chemistry Theory and Technology, Ministry of Education, Ocean University of China, Qingdao 266100, China
  • 2Laboratory for Marine Ecology and Environmental Science, Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, Qingdao 266237, China
  • 3Marine Ecology, GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research, Kiel, 24105, Germany

Abstract. Global change concurrently alters multiple environmental factors, with uncertain consequences for marine ecosystems. Lipids, in their function as trophic markers in food webs and organic matter source indicators in water column and sediments, provide a tool for reconstructing the complexity of global change effects. It remains unclear how ongoing changes in multiple environmental drivers affect the production of key lipid biomarkers in marine phytoplankton. Here, we tested the responses of sterols, alkenones and fatty acids (FAs) in the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum, the cryptophyte Rhodomonas sp. and the haptophyte Emiliania huxleyi under a full-factorial combination of three temperatures (12, 18 and 24 °C), three N : P supply ratios (molar ratios 10 : 1, 24 : 1 and 63 : 1) and two pCO2 levels (560 and 2400 µatm) in semi-continuous culturing experiments. Overall, N and P deficiency had a stronger effect on per-cell contents of sterols, alkenones and FAs than warming and enhanced pCO2. Specifically, P deficiency caused an overall increase in biomarker production in most cases, while N deficiency, warming and high pCO2 caused non-systematic changes. Under future ocean scenarios, we predict an overall decrease in carbon-normalized contents of sterols and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in E. huxleyi and P. tricornutum, and a decrease in sterols but an increase in PUFAs in Rhodomonas sp. Variable contents of lipid biomarkers indicate a diverse carbon allocation between marine phytoplankton species in response to changing environments. Thus, it is necessary to consider the changes in key lipids and their consequences for food web dynamics and biogeochemical cycles, when predicting the influence of global change on marine ecosystems.

Rong Bi et al.

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Rong Bi et al.


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Short summary
Lipids provide crucial insight into the trajectory of ecological functioning in changing environments. We experimentally explore responses of lipid biomarker production in phytoplankton to projected changes in temperature, nutrients and pCO2. Differential responses of lipid biomarkers indicate rearrangements of cellular carbon pools under future ocean scenarios. Such variations in lipid biomarker production would have important impacts on marine ecological functions and biogeochemical cycles.
Lipids provide crucial insight into the trajectory of ecological functioning in changing...