Articles | Volume 11, issue 1
Ocean Sci., 11, 13–32, 2015

Special issue: Physical, chemical and biological oceanography of the Mediterranean...

Ocean Sci., 11, 13–32, 2015

Research article 09 Jan 2015

Research article | 09 Jan 2015

Is coccolithophore distribution in the Mediterranean Sea related to seawater carbonate chemistry?

A. Oviedo1, P. Ziveri1,2,5, M. Álvarez3, and T. Tanhua4 A. Oviedo et al.
  • 1Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), 08193 Bellaterra, Spain
  • 2Earth & Climate Cluster, Department of Earth Sciences, FALW, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, FALW, HV1081 Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • 3IEO – Instituto Español de Oceanografia, Apd. 130, A Coruña 15001, Spain
  • 4GEOMAR Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung Kiel, Marine Biogeochemistry, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany
  • 5ICREA, Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats, Barcelona, Spain

Abstract. The Mediterranean Sea is considered a "hot spot" for climate change, being characterized by oligotrophic to ultra-oligotrophic waters and rapidly increasing seasurface temperature and changing carbonate chemistry. Coccolithophores are considered a dominant phytoplankton group in these waters. As marine calcifying organisms they are expected to respond to the ongoing changes in seawater carbonate chemistry. We provide here a description of the springtime coccolithophore distribution in the Mediterranean Sea and relate this to a broad set of in situ-measured environmental variables. Samples were taken during the R/V Meteor (M84/3) oceanographic cruise in April 2011, between 0 and 100 m water depth from 28 stations. Total diatom and silicoflagellate cell concentrations are also presented. Our results highlight the importance of seawater carbonate chemistry, especially [CO32−] but also [PO43−] in unraveling the distribution of heterococcolithophores, the most abundant coccolithophore life phase. Holo- and heterococcolithophores respond differently to environmental factors. For instance, changes in heterococcolithophore assemblages were best linked to the combination of [CO32−], pH, and salinity (ρ = 0.57), although salinity might be not functionally related to coccolithophore assemblage distribution. Holococcolithophores, on the other hand, showed higher abundances and species diversity in oligotrophic areas (best fit, ρ = 0.32 for nutrients), thriving in nutrient-depleted waters. Clustering of heterococcolithophores revealed three groups of species sharing more than 65% similarities. These clusters could be assigned to the eastern and western basins and deeper layers (below 50 m), respectively. In addition, the species Gephyrocapsa oceanica, G. muellerae, and Emiliania huxleyi morphotype B/C are spatially distributed together and trace the influx of Atlantic waters into the Mediterranean Sea. The results of the present work emphasize the importance of considering holo- and heterococcolithophores separately when analyzing changes in species assemblages and diversity. Our findings suggest that coccolithophores are a main phytoplankton group in the entire Mediterranean Sea and can dominate over siliceous phytoplankton. They have life stages that are expected to respond differently to the variability in seawater carbonate chemistry and nutrient concentrations.