Thèse de doctorat
Résumé : Coccolithophores are unicellular microscopic algae (Haptophyta) surrounded by calcium carbonate plates that are produced during their life cycle. These species, whose contemporary contributor is Emiliania huxleyi, are mainly found in the sub-polar and temperate oceans, where they produce huge blooms visible from space. Coccolithophores are sensitive to ocean acidification that results from the ongoing accumulation of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. The response of these organisms to global change appears to be related to the reduction of their ability to produce calcium carbonate at the cellular level. At the community levels, one anticipates changes in the carbon fluxes associated to their blooms as calcification is reduced. However, the consequences of such environmental changes on this species are speculative and require improvements in the description of the mechanisms controlling the organic and inorganic carbon production and export.

The first aspect of this work was to study the response of these organisms to artificially modified CO2 concentrations representative of the conditions occurring in the past (glacial) and those expected by the end of the century (2100). Two different levels were examined: the continuous monospecific cultures (chemostats) allowed us to work at the cellular level while the mesocosms gave light to the mechanisms taking place in an isolated fraction of the natural community. The second aspect of this work consisted of field studies carried out during four cruises (2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006) in the northern Bay of Biscay, where the occurrence of E. huxleyi blooms were observed in late spring and early summer. We describe the vertical profiles of biogeochemical variables (nutrients, chlorophyll-a, dissolved inorganic chemistry, particulate carbon, transparent exopolymer particles (TEP)) and study processes such as primary production, calcification and bacterial production. The properties of these blooms are compared with those reported in the literature and enriched with original measurements such as the abundance and concentration of TEP that could play an important role in carbon export to the deep ocean, modifying the properties of the settling ballasted aggregates.