Experimental Assessment of Temperature Thresholds for Arctic Phytoplankton Communities

Alexandra Camba*, Susana Agusti, Dolors Vaqué, Johnna Holding, Jesus Arrieta, Paul Wassmann, Carlos Duarte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


We examined the responses of two different natural arctic plankton communities to warming in an attempt to find temperature thresholds for abrupt changes in growth or biomass. We conducted two experiments in situ using two different plankton communities; incubation temperatures represented the annual variation in these Arctic waters plus 3–4 °C to account for the potential warming expected for the Arctic Ocean during the twenty-first century. We evaluated changes in nutrient and chlorophyll a concentrations, primary production, cell abundances, and growth rates as well as cell biovolume and percentage of living cells for the main groups found during our study. Phytoplankton communities were composed of diatoms, Phaeocystis sp., Micromonas, as well as other flagellates. Results indicate a decrease in chlorophyll a concentration and growth rate at the highest temperatures tested. We also found a differing effect on cell abundance and growth rates depending on the taxonomic group or cell size: diatom abundance decreased with warming while small-sized phytoplankton showed an increasing trend at the intermediate temperature treatments. Biovolume estimates also tended to decrease with increasing temperature. We find a perceptible change in trends at intermediate temperature treatments for most of the parameters which suggests a possible thermal threshold around 5–6 °C for the arctic plankton communities examined here.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)873-885
Number of pages13
JournalEstuaries and Coasts
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • Arctic
  • Phytoplankton
  • Temperature
  • Tipping point

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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