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Two intertidal, non-calcifying macroalgae (Palmaria palmata and Saccharina latissima) show complex and variable responses to short-term CO2 acidification

  1. Stephen Widdicombe1
  1. 1Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, West Hoe, Plymouth PL1 3DH, UK
  2. 2Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre, Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK
  1. *Corresponding author: tel: +44 1752 633 407; e-mail: jonu{at}
  1. Handling editor: C. Brock Woodson

  • Received December 11, 2014.
  • Revision received March 10, 2015.
  • Accepted April 14, 2015.


Ocean acidification, the result of increased dissolution of carbon dioxide (CO2) in seawater, is a leading subject of current research. The effects of acidification on non-calcifying macroalgae are, however, still unclear. The current study reports two 1-month studies using two different macroalgae, the red alga Palmaria palmata (Rhodophyta) and the kelp Saccharina latissima (Phaeophyta), exposed to control (pHNBS = ∼8.04) and increased (pHNBS = ∼7.82) levels of CO2-induced seawater acidification. The impacts of both increased acidification and time of exposure on net primary production (NPP), respiration (R), dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP) concentrations, and algal growth have been assessed. In P. palmata, although NPP significantly increased during the testing period, it significantly decreased with acidification, whereas R showed a significant decrease with acidification only. S. latissima significantly increased NPP with acidification but not with time, and significantly increased R with both acidification and time, suggesting a concomitant increase in gross primary production. The DMSP concentrations of both species remained unchanged by either acidification or through time during the experimental period. In contrast, algal growth differed markedly between the two experiments, in that P. palmata showed very little growth throughout the experiment, while S. latissima showed substantial growth during the course of the study, with the latter showing a significant difference between the acidified and control treatments. These two experiments suggest that the study species used here were resistant to a short-term exposure to ocean acidification, with some of the differences seen between species possibly linked to different nutrient concentrations between the experiments.

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