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  1. The extent and ecological significance of intraspecific functional diversity within marine microbial populations is still poorly understood, and it remains unclear if such strain-level microdiversity will affect fitness and persistence in a rapidly changing ocean environment. In this study, we cultured 11 sympatric strains of the ubiquitous marine picocyanobacteriumSynechococcusisolated from a Narragansett Bay (RI) phytoplankton community thermal selection experiment. Thermal performance curves revealed selection at cool and warm temperatures had subdivided the initial population into thermotypes with pronounced differences in maximum growth temperatures. Curiously, the genomes of all 11 isolates were almost identical (average nucleotide identities of >99.99%, with >99% of the genome aligning) and no differences in gene content or single nucleotide variants were associated with either cool or warm temperature phenotypes. Despite a very high level of genomic similarity, sequenced epigenomes for two strains showed differences in methylation on genes associated with photosynthesis. These corresponded to measured differences in photophysiology, suggesting a potential pathway for future mechanistic research into thermal microdiversity. Our study demonstrates that present-day marine microbial populations can harbor cryptic but environmentally relevant thermotypes which may increase their resilience to future rising temperatures.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 21, 2024
  2. Abstract

    Species‐abundance distributions (SADs) describe the spectrum of commonness and rarity in a community. Beyond the universal observation that most species are rare and only a few common, more‐precise description of SAD shape is controversial. Furthermore, the mechanisms behind SADs and how they vary along environmental gradients remain unresolved. We lack a general, non‐neutral theory of SADs. Here, we develop a trait‐based framework, focusing on a local community coupled to the region by dispersal. The balance of immigration and exclusion determines abundances, which vary over orders‐of‐magnitude. The local trait‐abundance distribution (TAD) reflects a transformation of the regional TAD. The left‐tail of the SAD depends on scaling exponents of the exclusion function and the regional species pool. More‐complex local dynamics can lead to multimodal TADs and SADs. Connecting SADs with trait‐based ecological theory provides a way to generate more‐testable hypotheses on the controls over commonness and rarity in communities.

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  3. Abstract

    The worldwide proliferation of harmful algal blooms (HABs) both in freshwater and marine ecosystems make understanding and predicting their occurrence urgent. Trait‐based approaches, where the focus is on functional traits, have been successful in explaining community structure and dynamics in diverse ecosystems but have not been applied extensively to HABs. The existing trait compilations suggest that HAB taxa differ from non HAB taxa in key traits that determine their responses to major environmental drivers. Multi‐trait comparisons between HAB‐forming and other phytoplankton taxa, as well as within the HAB groups to characterize interspecific and intraspecific differences will help better define ecological niches of different HAB taxa, develop trait‐based mechanistic models, and better identify environmental conditions that would likely lead to HABs. Building databases of HAB traits and using them in diverse statistical and mechanistic models will increase our ability to predict the HAB occurrence, composition, and severity under changing conditions, including the anthropogenic global change.

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  4. Moisander, Pia (Ed.)
    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. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
    The spread of an enteric pathogen in the human gut depends on many interacting factors, including pathogen exposure, diet, host gut environment, and host microbiota, but how these factors jointly influence infection outcomes remains poorly characterized. Here, we develop a model of host-mediated resource-competition between mutualistic and pathogenic taxa in the gut that aims to explain why similar hosts, exposed to the same pathogen, can have such different infection outcomes. Our model successfully reproduces several empirically observed phenomena related to transitions between healthy and infected states, including (1) the nonlinear relationship between pathogen inoculum size and infection persistence, (2) the elevated risk of chronic infection during or after treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics, (3) the resolution of gut dysbiosis with fecal microbiota transplants, and (4) the potential protection from infection conferred by probiotics. We then use the model to explore how host-mediated interventions, namely shifts in the supply rates of electron donors (e.g., dietary fiber) and respiratory electron acceptors (e.g., oxygen), can potentially be used to direct gut community assembly. Our study demonstrates how resource competition and ecological feedbacks between the host and the gut microbiota can be critical determinants of human health outcomes. We identify several testable model predictions ready for experimental validation. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
    Environments change, for both natural and anthropogenic reasons, which can threaten species persistence. Evolutionary adaptation is a potentially powerful mechanism to allow species to persist in these changing environments. To determine the conditions under which adaptation will prevent extinction (evolutionary rescue), classic quantitative genetics models have assumed a constantly changing environment. They predict that species traits will track a moving environmental optimum with a lag that approaches a constant. If fitness is negative at this lag, the species will go extinct. There have been many elaborations of these models incorporating increased genetic realism. Here, we review and explore the consequences of four ecological complications: non-quadratic fitness functions, interacting density- and trait-dependence, species interactions and fundamental limits to adaptation. We show that non-quadratic fitness functions can result in evolutionary tipping points and existential crises, as can the interaction between density- and trait-dependent mortality. We then review the literature on how interspecific interactions affect adaptation and persistence. Finally, we suggest an alternative theoretical framework that considers bounded environmental change and fundamental limits to adaptation. A research programme that combines theory and experiments and integrates across organizational scales will be needed to predict whether adaptation will prevent species extinction in changing environments. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Integrative research perspectives on marine conservation’. 
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  7. null (Ed.)