Rising carbon dioxide () concentrations in the atmosphere due to human activity are causing the surface ocean to become more acidic. Diatoms play a pivotal role in biogeochemical cycling and ecosystem function in the ocean. pH affected the quantum efficiency of photosystem II and carbohydrate metabolism in a planktonic diatom (
Chaetoceros muelleri), representative of a widely distributed genus. In batch cultures grown at low pH, the proportion of total carbohydrate stored within the cells decreased and more dissolved carbohydrates were exuded from the cells into the surrounding medium. Changes in productivity and the way in which diatoms allocate carbon into carbohydrates may affect ecosystem function and the efficiency of the biological carbon pump in a low pH ocean.