Reorganizations of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation were associated with large and abrupt climatic changes in the North Atlantic region during the last glacial period. Projections with climate models suggest that similar reorganizations may also occur in response to anthropogenic global warming. Here I use ensemble simulations with a coupled climate-ecosystem model of intermediate complexity to investigate the possible consequences of such disturbances to the marine ecosystem. In the simulations, a disruption of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation leads to a collapse of the North Atlantic plankton stocks to less than half of their initial biomass, owing to rapid shoaling of winter mixed layers and their associated separation from the deep ocean nutrient reservoir. Globally integrated export production declines by more than 20 per cent owing to reduced upwelling of nutrient-rich deep water and gradual depletion of upper ocean nutrient concentrations. These model results are consistent with the available high-resolution palaeorecord, and suggest that global ocean productivity is sensitive to changes in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation.
Phycotoxins produced by various species of toxigenic microalgae occurring in the plankton are a global threat to the security of seafood resources and the health of humans and coastal marine ecosystems. This has necessitated the development and application of advanced methods in liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (LC-MS) for monitoring of these compounds, particularly in plankton and shellfish. Most such chemical analyses are conducted in land-based laboratories on stored samples, and thus much information on the near real-time biogeographical distribution and dynamics of phycotoxins in the plankton is unavailable. To resolve this problem, we conducted ship-board analysis of a broad spectrum of phycotoxins collected directly from the water column on an oceanographic cruise along the North Sea coast of Scotland, Norway, and Denmark. We equipped the ship with a triple-quadrupole linear ion-trap hybrid LC-MS-MS system for detection and quantitative analysis of toxins, such as domoic acid, gymnodimine, spirolides, dinophysistoxins, okadaic acid, pectenotoxins, yessotoxins, and azaspiracids (AZAs). We focused particular attention on the detection of AZAs, a group of potent nitrogenous polyether toxins, because the culprit species associated with the occurrence of these toxins in shellfish has been controversial. Marine toxins were analyzed directly from size-fractionated plankton net tows (20 microm mesh size) and Niskin bottle samples from discrete depths, after rapid methanolic extraction but without any further clean-up. Almost all expected phycotoxins were detected in North Sea plankton samples, with domoic acid and 20-methylspirolide G being most abundant. Although AZA was the least abundant of these toxins, the high sensitivity of the LC-MS-MS enabled detailed quantification, indicating that the highest amounts of AZA-1 were present in the southern Skagerrak in the 3-20 microm size-fraction. The direct on-board toxin measurements enabled isolation of plankton from stations with high AZA-1 levels and from the most suspicious size-fraction, i.e. most likely to contain the AZA-producer. A large number (>100) of crude cultures were established by serial dilution and later screened for the presence of AZAs after several weeks growth. From one crude culture containing AZA, a small dinoflagellate was subsequently isolated and brought into pure culture. We have thus proved that even sophisticated mass spectrometers can be operated in ship laboratories without any limitation caused by vibrations of the ship's engine or by wave movement during heavy seas at wind forces up to nine Beaufort. On-board LC-MS-MS is a valuable method for near real-time analysis of phycotoxins in plankton for studies on bloom dynamics and the fate of toxins in the food web, and for characterization and isolation of putatively toxigenic organisms.
Knowing the geographic extents of species is crucial for understanding the causes of diversity distributions and modes of speciation and extinction. Species geographic ranges are often viewed as approximately constant in size in geological time, even though climate change studies have shown that historical and modern species geographic distributions are not static. Here, we use an extensive global microfossil database to explore the temporal trajectories of geographic extents over the entire lifespan of marine nannoplankton, diatom, planktic foraminifer and radiolarian species. We show that geographic extents are not static over geological time-scales. Temporal trajectories of species geographic ranges are asymmetric: the rise is quicker than the fall. We propose that once a species has overcome its initial difficulties in geographic establishment, it rises to its peak geographic extent. However, once this peak value is reached, it will also have a maximal number of species to interact with. The negative of these biotic interactions could then cause a gradual geographic decline. We discuss the multiple implications of our findings with reference to macroecological and macroevolutionary studies.