Coccolithophores are at the base of marine food webs and are a food source for many zooplankton species by providing energy to these organisms in the form of fats (lipids) and other nutrients. As with other marine organisms, acidification would be expected to adversely affect carapaces.
The experiments in this study used simulated future climate conditions. Results showed that lipid availability increased under ocean warming. However, this increase was reduced by ocean acidification. Coccolithophores also show reduced nutritional content, indicating that they provide consumers with a lower quality food source. It may be beneficial for
“Cocolithophores are very important marine organisms. Although they are microscopic, they play a major role in the carbon cycle and are an important food source in the ocean,” said an ICTA-UAB researcher who contributed to the study. Lead author Roberta Johnson said: “These organisms are being adversely affected by climate change conditions due to declining energy and nutrients, and we see that this has different effects on marine food webs,” she adds.
ICTA-UAB professor and co-author of the study, Patrizia Ziveri, said: Our findings indicate that climate change may have a domino effect on food webs. It is important to note that the fact that the nutritional quality of coccolithophores for consumers may decline under climate change has broad implications for the dynamics of rapidly changing marine food webs.