Divergent fate of coccolithophores in a warming tropical ecosystem

Miguel José Frada*, Sabine Keuter, Gil Koplovitz, Yoav Avrahami

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Rising ocean temperatures will alter the diversity of marine phytoplankton communities, likely leading to modifications in food-web and biogeochemical dynamics. Here we focus on coccolithophores, a prominent group of calcifying phytoplankton that plays a central role in the global carbon cycle. Using both new (2017–2020) and historical (1975–1976) data from the northern Red Sea, we found that during ‘mild summers’, the most common coccolithophores - Emiliania huxleyi and Gephyrocapsa ericsonii - co-exist at similar densities. Both species then particularly flourish during subsequent winter periods where nutrient availability is higher due to convective mixing. However, during ‘hot summers’, which have become progressively the norm over the last decades with average surface temperatures exceeding 27°C for long time-periods, G. ericsonii density markedly declined. Moreover, G. ericsonii remains at low background levels even during winter mixing periods, while E. huxleyi succession and development during winter appears unchanged. Further incubation assays using native assemblages confirmed that G. ericsonii’s growth over 27°C is significantly reduced relative to E. huxleyi. Additional factors likely contribute to impair G. ericsonii populations at sea, but temperature is a key factor. Our results illustrate the divergent impact of ongoing ocean warming in tropical phytoplankton species.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1560-1568
Number of pages9
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2022

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© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


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