Impact of ocean acidification on the structure of future phytoplankton communities

Stephanie Dutkiewicz, J. Jeffrey Morris, Michael J. Follows, Jeffery Scott, Orly Levitan, Sonya T. Dyhrman, Ilana Berman-Frank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations


Phytoplankton form the foundation of the marine food web and regulate key biogeochemical processes. These organisms face multiple environmental changes, including the decline in ocean pH (ocean acidification) caused by rising atmospheric p CO 2 (ref.). A meta-analysis of published experimental data assessing growth rates of different phytoplankton taxa under both ambient and elevated p CO 2 conditions revealed a significant range of responses. This effect of ocean acidification was incorporated into a global marine ecosystem model to explore how marine phytoplankton communities might be impacted over the course of a hypothetical twenty-first century. Results emphasized that the differing responses to elevated p CO 2 caused sufficient changes in competitive fitness between phytoplankton types to significantly alter community structure. At the level of ecological function of the phytoplankton community, acidification had a greater impact than warming or reduced nutrient supply. The model suggested that longer timescales of competition- and transport-mediated adjustments are essential for predicting changes to phytoplankton community structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1002-1006
Number of pages5
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge funding from NSF grant OCE-1315201 (J.J.M., S.D., M.J.F., S.T.D.), DOE grant DE-FG02-94ER61937 (S.D., J.S.), the Gordon and Betty Moore foundation (S.D., M.J.F.), NSF grant OCE 13-14336 (S.T.D.), German–Israel Joint Research BMBF-MOST grant GR1950 (I.B.-F.), the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action NSF grant DBI-0939454 (J.J.M.) and a NASA Astrobiology Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship (J.J.M.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited.


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