Marine phytoplankton generate half of global primary production, making them essential to ecosystem functioning and biogeochemical cycling. Though phytoplankton are phylogenetically diverse, studies rarely designate unique thermal traits to different taxa, resulting in coarse representations of phytoplankton thermal responses. Here we assessed phytoplankton functional responses to temperature using empirically derived thermal growth rates from four principal contributors to marine productivity: diatoms, dinoflagellates, cyanobacteria, and coccolithophores. Using modeled sea surface temperatures for 1950–1970 and 2080–2100, we explored potential alterations to each group’s growth rates and geographical distribution under a future climate change scenario. Contrary to the commonly applied Eppley formulation, our data suggest phytoplankton functional types may be characterized by different temperature coefficients (Q10), growth maxima thermal dependencies, and thermal ranges which would drive dissimilar responses to each degree of temperature change. These differences, when applied in response to global simulations of future temperature, result in taxon-specific projections of growth and geographic distribution, with low-latitude coccolithophores facing considerable decreases and cyanobacteria substantial increases in growth rates. These results suggest that the singular effect of changing temperature may alter phytoplankton global community structure, owing to the significant variability in thermal response between phytoplankton functional types.
Thermal performance of marine diatoms under contrasting nitrate availability
Abstract Environmental factors that interact with increasing temperature under the ongoing global warming are an urgent issue determining marine phytoplankton’s performance. Previous studies showed that nutrient limitation alters phytoplankton responses to temperature and may lower their temperature optima (Topt), making them more susceptible to high temperatures. The generality of this relationship is unknown, as very few species were tested. Here we investigated how growth rate depended on temperature at two contrasting nitrogen concentrations in six marine diatoms isolated from different thermal environments, including the tropics. Low nitrate had a significant effect on thermal performance in five of the six species. The effect size was larger around the optimum temperature for growth, resulting in flattened thermal performance curves but no shift in Topt. While that trend is independent of the thermal regime from which each species was isolated, the implications for the phytoplankton response to global warming may be region dependent.
- Moisander, Pia
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- Journal of Plankton Research
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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