Algal ecophysiology in a changing world
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Predicting diatom silica production under future ocean conditions, from genes to biomes
D iatoms are a dominant group of marine microorganisms that build thick, glass-like cell walls of silica through the process of silicification. Because of their unique architecture, diatoms sink quickly to the ocean floor, and are therefore central for removal of carbon and silica from the biosphere. To-date, little is known of the effect of CO2-induced ocean acidification and warming on this important process, limiting our ability to predict future ocean carbon cycling and functioning.

T his project represents an emerging area of research, and building on our recent findings we will extend our investigations to assess how climate change induced shifts in diatom physiology and community composition impact silicification, health and nutritional composition of marine diatoms, with the specific aims to 1) quantify changes to silicification with CO2 enrichment and warming at the species and community level 2) assess changes in productivity and macromolecular composition under furture ocean conditions 3) reveal climate-induced shifts in diatom silicification that are imprinted in the diatom trascriptome – uncovering the mechanism for loss of silicification and 4) resolve diatom fitness with future ocean ecology and biogeochemistry through ocean models.

Students:  Alyson Theseira | Billy Lowry
Postdoc:  Dr Daniel Aagren Nielsen
Collaborators:  Dr Kim Thamatrakolm (Rutgers) | Dr Richard Matear(CSIRO)
Funding:  Australian Research Council Discovery Project
Diatoms exposed to increased CO2 and warming (centre), trait measurements (silicification, photosynthesis, genes and biomolecules) (Right), quantitative model of large-scale patterns in oceanic Silicon and Carbon cycling (Left).

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