Life in a Cold and Dark Place: Can It Long Be Maintained in a Warming World?
McMinn, A. and Martin, A. 2013. Dark survival in a warming world. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 280: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2909.
Based on their review, the two Australian researchers - who work at the University of Tasmania's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies - reported that "some taxa, such as dinoflagellates, form cysts and become dormant," while "others use physiological methods or adopt mixotrophy," noting that "the longest documented survival of more than a century was for dinoflagellates buried in sediments in a Norwegian fjord." In the future, however, they opine that polar microalgae will have to survive "the same period of seasonal darkness but at higher temperatures, and this will require a greater drawdown of stored energy." So the sixty-four thousand dollar question is: can they do it?
Fortunately, McMinn and Martin report that "recent experimental work has shown that both Arctic [Martin et al., 2012] and Antarctic [Reeves et al., 2011] phytoplankton are able to survive increases of up to 6°C in the dark."
The experimental results they discuss all suggest, as they put it, that "both Arctic and Antarctic phytoplankton are resilient when grown in the dark at temperatures up to 6°C greater than natural." And they say that such a temperature increase is "unlikely to be experienced in a few centuries as a result of climate change," which pretty much assures that polar microalgae will survive for a long, long time to come.
Martin, A., McMinn, A., Heath, M., Hegseth, E.N. and Ryan, K.G. 2012. The physiological response to increased temperature in over-wintering sea-ice algae and phytoplankton in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica and Tromso, Norway. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 428: 57-66.
Reeves, S., McMinn, A. and Martin, A. 2011. The effect of prolonged darkness on the growth, recovery and survival of Antarctic sea ice diatoms. Polar Biology 34: 1019-1032.