Community barcoding reveals little effect of ocean acidification on the composition of coastal plankton communities: Evidence from a long-term mesocosm study in the Gullmar Fjord, Skagerrak

PLoS One. 2017 Apr 26;12(4):e0175808. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0175808. eCollection 2017.


The acidification of the oceans could potentially alter marine plankton communities with consequences for ecosystem functioning. While several studies have investigated effects of ocean acidification on communities using traditional methods, few have used genetic analyses. Here, we use community barcoding to assess the impact of ocean acidification on the composition of a coastal plankton community in a large scale, in situ, long-term mesocosm experiment. High-throughput sequencing resulted in the identification of a wide range of planktonic taxa (Alveolata, Cryptophyta, Haptophyceae, Fungi, Metazoa, Hydrozoa, Rhizaria, Straminipila, Chlorophyta). Analyses based on predicted operational taxonomical units as well as taxonomical compositions revealed no differences between communities in high CO2 mesocosms (~ 760 μatm) and those exposed to present-day CO2 conditions. Observed shifts in the planktonic community composition were mainly related to seasonal changes in temperature and nutrients. Furthermore, based on our investigations, the elevated CO2 did not affect the intraspecific diversity of the most common mesozooplankter, the calanoid copepod Pseudocalanus acuspes. Nevertheless, accompanying studies found temporary effects attributed to a raise in CO2. Differences in taxa composition between the CO2 treatments could, however, only be observed in a specific period of the experiment. Based on our genetic investigations, no compositional long-term shifts of the plankton communities exposed to elevated CO2 conditions were observed. Thus, we conclude that the compositions of planktonic communities, especially those in coastal areas, remain rather unaffected by increased CO2.

MeSH terms

  • Alveolata / genetics
  • Alveolata / growth & development
  • Alveolata / metabolism
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • Chlorophyll / analysis
  • Chlorophyll A
  • Cryptophyta / genetics
  • Cryptophyta / growth & development
  • Cryptophyta / metabolism
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / isolation & purification
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA Barcoding, Taxonomic*
  • Fungi / genetics
  • Fungi / growth & development
  • Fungi / metabolism
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Plankton / genetics
  • Plankton / growth & development*
  • Plankton / metabolism
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / chemistry
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / isolation & purification
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / metabolism
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sweden


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S
  • Chlorophyll
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • DNA
  • Chlorophyll A

Grants and funding

This study is part of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Science (BMBF) funded “Verbundprojekt” BIOACID Phase II (Biological Impacts of Ocean ACIDification), consortium 1, WP 1.14 (FKZ 03F0655B) and received funding from the Swedish Academy of Science. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.