In aquatic environments, the concentration of inorganic carbon is spatially and temporally variable and CO2 can be substantially oversaturated or depleted. Depletion of CO2 plus low rates of diffusion cause inorganic carbon to be more limiting in aquatic than terrestrial environments, and the frequency of species with a CO2-concentrating mechanism (CCM), and their contribution to productivity, is correspondingly greater. Aquatic photoautotrophs may have biochemical or biophysical CCMs and exploit CO2 from the sediment or the atmosphere. Though partly constrained by phylogeny, CCM activity is related to environmental conditions. CCMs are absent or down-regulated when their increased energy costs, lower CO2 affinity, or altered mineral requirements outweigh their benefits. Aquatic CCMs are most widespread in environments with low CO2, high HCO3-, high pH, and high light. Freshwater species are generally less effective at inorganic carbon removal than marine species, but have a greater range of ability to remove carbon, matching the environmental variability in carbon availability. The diversity of CCMs in seagrasses and marine phytoplankton, and detailed mechanistic studies on larger aquatic photoautotrophs are understudied. Strengthening the links between ecology and CCMs will increase our understanding of the mechanisms underlying ecological success and will place mechanistic studies in a clearer ecological context.
Keywords: Aquatic CCM; CO2; inorganic carbon; macroalgae; macrophytes; photosynthesis; phytoplankton; seagrasses.
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