Subtropical freshwater phytoplankton show a greater response to increased temperature than to increased pCO2

Anusuya Willis, Ann W. Chuang, Philip T. Orr, John Beardall, Michele A. Burford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Global increases in atmospheric CO2 and temperatures will impact aquatic systems, with freshwater habitats being affected. Some studies suggest that these conditions will promote cyanobacterial dominance. There is a need for a clearer picture of how algal species and strains within species will respond to higher temperatures and CO2, especially in combination. This study examined two chlorophytes (Monoraphidium and Staurastrum), and two strains of the cyanobacterium Raphidiopsis raciborskii (straight S07 and coiled C03), to determine how the combination of higher temperature and CO2 levels will affect their growth and maximum cell concentrations. Continuous cultures were used to compare the steady state cell concentrations at 28 °C and 30 °C, and CO2 partial pressures (pCO2), 400 and 750 ppm for all cultures, and in addition 1000 ppm at 28 °C for R. raciborskii strains. This study showed that, for all species, water temperature had a greater effect than higher pCO2 on cell concentrations. There were clear differences in response between the chlorophyte species, with Monoraphidium preferring 28 °C and Staurastrum preferring 30 °C. There were also differences in response of the R. raciborskii strains to increasing temperature and pCO2, with S07 having a greater increase in cell concentration. Genome analysis of R. raciborskii showed that the straight strain has five additional carbon acquisition genes (β-CA, chpY, cmpB, cmpD and NdhD4), indicative of increased carbon metabolism. These differences in the strains’ response to elevated pCO2 will lead to changes in the species population structure and distribution in the water column. This study shows that it is important to examine the effects of both pCO2 and temperature, and to consider strain variation, to understand how species composition of natural systems may change under future climate conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101705
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalHarmful Algae
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Australia
  • Climate change
  • Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii
  • Genome comparison
  • Raphidiopsis raciborskii
  • Strains

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