Elevated co2 has Differential Effects on Five Species of Microalgae from a Subtropical Freshwater Lake: Possible Implications for Phytoplankton Species Composition1

Thomas Lines, Philip Orr, John Beardall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations are predicted to have a significant impact on global phytoplankton populations. Of particular interest in freshwater systems are those species that produce toxins or impact water quality, though evidence for how these species, and many others, will respond is limited. This study investigated the effects of elevated CO2 (1,000 ppm) relative to current atmospheric CO2 partial pressures (400 ppm), on growth, cell size, carbon acquisition, and photophysiology of five freshwater phytoplankton species including a toxic cyanophyte, Raphidiopsis raciborskii, from Lake Wivenhoe, Australia. Effects of elevated CO2 on growth rate varied between species; notably growth rate was considerably higher for Staurastrum sp. and significantly lower for Stichococcus sp. with a trend to lower growth rate for R. raciborskii. Surface area to volume ratio was significantly lower with elevated CO2, for all species except Cyclotella sp. Timing of maximum cell concentrations of those genera studied in monoculture occurred in the lake in order of CO2 affinity when free CO2 concentrations dropped below air equilibrium. The results presented here suggest that as atmospheric levels of CO2 rise, R. raciborskii may become less of a problem to water quality, while some species of chlorophytes may become more dominant. This has implications for stakeholders of many freshwater systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)324-334
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Phycology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2020


  • chlorophyte
  • climate change
  • community
  • cyanobacteria
  • freshwater
  • nuisance algae

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