Response of a natural Antarctic phytoplankton assemblage to changes in temperature and salinity

Julieta S Antoni*, Gaston O Almandoz, Martha E Ferrario, Marcelo P Hernando, Diana E Varela, Patrick Rozema, Anita Buma, Flavio E Paparazzo, Irene R Schloss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
147 Downloads (Pure)


The climate around the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) is rapidly changing and dramatically affecting marine coastal waters. Increases in air and seawater temperatures, not matter how small, can alter coastal biological communities due to both temperature increases as well as salinity reduction from glacier melting. The aim of this study was to evaluate the individual and combined effects of elevated sea surface temperature (+4 °C) and decreased salinity (−4) on growth and assemblage composition of natural summer phytoplankton from Potter Cove (King George Island, South Shetlands, northern WAP), using an outdoor microcosm experiment. Pigment composition was analyzed by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC/Chemtax) and species composition by light and electron microscopy. Increases in phytoplankton biomass during the first 3 days at elevated-temperatures coincided with an increase in the abundance and the specific growth rate of small centric diatoms (Chaetoceros socialis and Shionodiscus gaarderae, mostly observed in temperate waters) and unidentified small phytoflagellates <5 μm. In contrast, pennate diatoms significantly decreased. At the end of the experiment on day 7, under nitrate and phosphate limitation, chlorophytes abundances increased under low salinity whereas prasinophytes decreased in all treatments. This study suggests that climate change could notably affect Antarctic phytoplankton composition by favouring temperate-water species previously undetected in Antarctic waters, such us S. gaarderae. Moreover, the observed changes in phytoplankton structure, associated with an increase of nano- over micro-size taxa, could have important implications for future Antarctic food webs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number151444
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Issue number151444
Publication statusPublished - Nov-2020


  • Climate change, Antarctic phytoplankton assemblagesChaetoceros socialisShionodiscus gaarderae,
  • Chlorophytes

Cite this