Increasing pCO2 is hypothesized to induce shifts in plankton communities toward smaller cells, reduced carbon export rates and increased roles of gelatinous zooplankton. Appendicularians, among the most numerous pan-global “gelatinous” zooplankton, continuously produce filter-feeding houses, shortcutting marine food webs by ingesting submicron particles, and their discarded houses contribute significantly to carbon fluxes. We present a first mesocosm-scale study on the effects of temperature, pCO2 and bloom structures on the appendicularian, Oikopleura dioica. There were effects of temperature and nutrients on phytoplankton communities. No shifts in functional phytoplankton groups, nor changes in particle sizes/morphotypes, known to impact appendicularian feeding, were observed under manipulated pCO2 conditions. However, appendicularian abundance was positively correlated with increased pCO2, temperature and nutrient levels, consistent with hypotheses concerning gelatinous zooplankton in future oceans. This suggests appendicularians will play more important roles in marine pelagic communities and vertical carbon transport under projected ocean acidification and elevated temperature scenarios.
Marine Biology, 2012, Vol 160, Issue 8, p. 2175-2187