No observed effect of ocean acidification on nitrogen biogeochemistry in a summer Baltic Sea plankton community

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Paul, AJ, Achterberg, EP, Bach, LT, Boxhammer, T, Czerny, J, Haunost, M, Schulz, KG, Stuhr, A & Riebesell, U 2016, 'No observed effect of ocean acidification on nitrogen biogeochemistry in a summer Baltic Sea plankton community', Biogeosciences, vol. 13, pp. 3901-3913.

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Nitrogen fixation by filamentous cyanobacteria supplies significant amounts of new nitrogen (N) to the Baltic Sea. This balances N loss processes such as denitrification and anammox, and forms an important N source supporting primary and secondary production in N-limited postspring bloom plankton communities. Laboratory studies suggest that filamentous diazotrophic cyanobacteria growth and N2-fixation rates are sensitive to ocean acidification, with potential implications for new N supply to the Baltic Sea. In this study, our aim was to assess the effect of ocean acidifi- cation on diazotroph growth and activity as well as the contribution of diazotrophically fixed N to N supply in a natural plankton assemblage. We enclosed a natural plankton community in a summer season in the Baltic Sea near the entrance to the Gulf of Finland in six large-scale mesocosms (volume ∼ 55 m3 ) and manipulated f CO2 over a range relevant for projected ocean acidification by the end of this century (average treatment f CO2: 365–1231 µatm). The direct response of diazotroph growth and activity was followed in the mesocosms over a 47 day study period during N-limited growth in the summer plankton community. Diazotrophic filamentous cyanobacteria abundance throughout the study period and N2-fixation rates (determined only until day 21 due to subsequent use of contaminated commercial 15N-N2 gas stocks) remained low. Thus estimated new N inputs from diazotrophy were too low to relieve N limitation and stimulate a summer phytoplankton bloom. Instead, regeneration of organic N sources likely sustained growth in the plankton community. We could not detect significant CO2-related differences in neither inorganic nor organic N pool sizes, or particulate matter N : P stoichiometry. Additionally, no significant effect of elevated CO2 on diazotroph activity was observed. Therefore, ocean acidification had no observable impact on N cycling or biogeochemistry in this N-limited, post-spring bloom plankton assemblage in the Baltic Sea.

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