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Carbon dioxide and light are two major prerequisites of photosynthesis. Rising CO2 levels in oceanic surface waters in
combination with ample light supply are therefore often considered stimulatory to marine primary production. Here we
show that the combination of an increase in both CO2 and light exposure negatively impacts photosynthesis and growth of
marine primary producers. When exposed to CO2 concentrations projected for the end of this century, natural phytoplankton
assemblages of the South China Sea responded with decreased primary production and increased light stress at light intensities
representative of the upper surface layer. The phytoplankton community shifted away from diatoms, the dominant phytoplankton
group during our field campaigns. To examine the underlying mechanisms of the observed responses, we grew diatoms at different
CO2 concentrations and under varying levels (5-100%) of solar radiation experienced by the phytoplankton at different depths
of the euphotic zone. Above 22-36% of incident surface irradiance, growth rates in the high-CO2-grown cells were inversely
related to light levels and exhibited reduced thresholds at which light becomes inhibitory. Future shoaling of upper-mixed-layer
depths will expose phytoplankton to increased mean light intensities. In combination with rising CO2 levels, this may cause a
widespread decline in marine primary production and a community shift away from diatoms, the main algal group that supports
higher trophic levels and carbon export in the ocean.
Kunshan Gao has completed his Ph.D. at the age of 31 years from Kyoto University and postdoctoral studies from University of Hawaii. He is the
Chair professor of State key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science (Xiamen University). He has published more than 170 papers in reputed
journals and serving as editorial board members of Journal of applied Phycolology, Algae and American J. of Plant Sciences.
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