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ISME J. 2008 May;2(5):471-81. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2008.9. Epub 2008 Feb 7.

Toward a mechanistic understanding of how natural bacterial communities respond to changes in temperature in aquatic ecosystems.

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  • 1Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St Paul, MN, USA.


We examine how heterotrophic bacterioplankton communities respond to temperature by mathematically defining two thermally adapted species and showing how changes in environmental temperature affect competitive outcome in a two-resource environment. We did this by adding temperature dependence to both the respiration and uptake terms of a two species, two-resource model rooted in Droop kinetics. We used published literature values and results of our own work with experimental microcosms to parameterize the model and to quantitatively and qualitatively define relationships between temperature and bacterioplankton physiology. Using a graphical resource competition framework, we show how physiological adaptation to temperature can allow organisms to be more, or less, competitive for limiting resources across a thermal gradient (2-34 degrees C). Our results suggest that the effect of temperature on bacterial community composition, and therefore bacterially mediated biogeochemical processes, depends on the available resource pool in a given system. In addition, our results suggest that the often unclear relationship between temperature and bacterial metabolism, as reported in the literature, can be understood by allowing for changes in the relative contribution of thermally adapted populations to community metabolism.

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