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  1. Abstract

    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.

  2. Abstract

    A complex interplay of environmental variables impacts phytoplankton community composition and physiology. Temperature and nutrient availability are two principal factors driving phytoplankton growth and composition, but are often investigated independently and on individual species in the laboratory. To assess the individual and interactive effects of temperature and nutrient concentration on phytoplankton community composition and physiology, we altered both the thermal and nutrient conditions of a cold‐adapted spring phytoplankton community in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, when surface temperature was 2.6°C and chlorophyll > 9 μg L−1. Water was incubated in triplicate at −0.5°C, 2.6°C, and 6°C for 10 d. At each temperature, treatments included both nutrient amendments (N, P, Si addition) and controls (no macronutrients added). The interactive effects of temperature and resource availability altered phytoplankton growth and community structure. Nutrient amendments resulted in species sorting and communities dominated by larger species. Under replete nutrients, warming tripled phytoplankton growth rates, but under in situ nutrient conditions, increased temperature acted antagonistically, reducing growth rates by as much as 33%, suggesting communities became nutrient limited. The temperature–nutrient interplay shifted the relative proportions of each species within the phytoplankton community, resulting in more silica rich cells at decreasing temperatures, irrespective of nutrients, and C : N that varied basedmore »on resource availability, with nutrient limitation inducing a 47% increase in C : N at increasing temperatures. Our results illustrate how the temperature–nutrient interplay can alter phytoplankton community dynamics, with changes in temperature amplifying or exacerbating the nutrient effect with implications for higher trophic levels and carbon flux.

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  3. Abstract

    Diatoms have well‐recognized roles in fixing and exporting carbon and supplying energy to marine ecosystems, but only recently have we begun to explore the diversity and importance of nano‐ and pico‐diatoms. Here, we describe a small (ca. 5 μm) diatom from the genusChaetocerosisolated from a wintertime temperate estuary (2°C, Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island), with a unique obligate specialization for low‐light environments (< 120 μmol photons m−2 s−1). This diatom exhibits a striking interaction between irradiance and thermal responses whereby as temperatures increase, so does its susceptibility to light stress. Historical 18S rRNA amplicon data from our study site show this isolate was abundant throughout a 6‐yr period, and its presence strongly correlates with winter and early spring months when light and temperature are low. Two amplicon sequence variants matching this isolate had a circumpolar distribution in Tara Polar Ocean Circle samples, indicating its unusual light and temperature requirements are adaptations to life in a cold, dark environment. We expect this isolate's low light, psychrophilic niche to shrink as future warming‐induced stratification increases both light and temperature levels experienced by high latitude marine phytoplankton.

  4. Abstract

    Organismal distributions are largely mediated by temperature, suggesting thermal trait variability plays a key role in defining species' niches. We employed a trait‐based approach to better understand how inter‐ and intraspecific thermal trait variability could explain diatom community dynamics using 24 strains from 5 species in the diatom genusSkeletonema, isolated from Narragansett Bay (NBay), where this genus can comprise up to 99% of the microplankton. Strain‐specific thermal reaction norms were generated using growth rates obtained at temperatures ranging from −2°C to 36°C. Comparison of thermal reaction norms revealed inter‐ and intraspecific similarities in the thermal optima, but significant differences approaching the thermal limits. Cellular elemental composition was determined for two thermally differentiated species and again, the most variation occurred approaching the thermal limits. To determine the potential impact of interspecific variability on community composition, a species succession model was formulated utilizing each species' empirically determined thermal reaction norm and historical temperature data from NBay. Seasonal succession in the modeled community resembled the timing of species occurrence in the field, but not species' relative abundance. The model correctly predicted the timing of the dominant winter–spring species,Skeletonema marinoi, within 0–14 d of its observed peak occurrence in the field. Interspecific variability approachingmore »the thermal limits provides an alternative mechanism for temporal diatom succession, leads to altered cellular elemental composition, and thus has the potential to influence carbon flux and nutrient cycling, suggesting that growth approaching the thermal limits be incorporated into both empirical and modeling efforts in the future.

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  5. Phytoplankton support complex bacterial microbiomes that rely on phytoplankton-derived extracellular compounds and perform functions necessary for algal growth. Recent work has revealed sophisticated interactions and exchanges of molecules between specific phytoplankton–bacteria pairs, but the role of host genotype in regulating those interactions is unknown. Here, we show how phytoplankton microbiomes are shaped by intraspecific genetic variation in the host using global environmental isolates of the model phytoplankton host Thalassiosira rotula and a laboratory common garden experiment. A set of 81 environmental T. rotula genotypes from three ocean basins and eight genetically distinct populations did not reveal a core microbiome. While no single bacterial phylotype was shared across all genotypes, we found strong genotypic influence of T. rotula , with microbiomes associating more strongly with host genetic population than with environmental factors. The microbiome association with host genetic population persisted across different ocean basins, suggesting that microbiomes may be associated with host populations for decades. To isolate the impact of host genotype on microbiomes, a common garden experiment using eight genotypes from three distinct host populations again found that host genotype influenced microbial community composition, suggesting that a process we describe as genotypic filtering, analogous to environmental filtering, shapes phytoplankton microbiomes.more »In both the environmental and laboratory studies, microbiome variation between genotypes suggests that other factors influenced microbiome composition but did not swamp the dominant signal of host genetic background. The long-term association of microbiomes with specific host genotypes reveals a possible mechanism explaining the evolution and maintenance of complex phytoplankton–bacteria chemical exchanges.« less
  6. Diatoms generate nearly half of marine primary production and are comprised of a diverse array of species that are often morphologically cryptic or difficult to identify using light microscopy. Here, species composition and realized thermal niches of species in the diatom genus Thalassiosira were examined at the site of the Narragansett Bay (NBay) Long-Term Plankton Time Series using a combination of light microscopy (LM), high-throughput sequencing (HTS) of the 18S rDNA V4 region and historical records. Thalassiosira species were identified over 6 years using a combination of LM and DNA sequences. Sixteen Thalassiosira taxa were identified using HTS: nine were newly identified in NBay. Several newly identified species have small cell diameters and are difficult to identify using LM. However, they appeared frequently and thus may play a significant ecological role in NBay, particularly since their realized niches suggest they are eurythermal and able to tolerate the >25 °C temperature range of NBay. Four distinct species assemblages that grouped by season were best explained by surface water temperature. When compared to historical records, we found that the cold-water species Thalassiosira nordenskioeldii has decreased in persistence over time, suggesting that increasing surface water temperature has influenced the ecology of phytoplankton inmore »NBay.« less
  7. High‐affinity nitrate transporters are considered to be the major transporter system for nitrate uptake in diatoms. In the diatom genus Skeletonema, three forms of genes encoding high‐affinity nitrate transporters (NRT2) were newly identified from transcriptomes generated as part of the marine microbial eukaryote transcriptome sequencing project. To examine the expression of each form of NRT2 under different nitrogen environments, laboratory experiments were conducted under nitrate‐sufficient, ammonium‐sufficient, and nitrate‐limited conditions using three ecologically important Skeletonema species: S. dohrnii, S. menzelii, and S. marinoi. Primers were developed for each NRT2 form and species and Q‐RT‐PCR was performed. For each NRT2 form, the three Skeletonema species had similar transcriptional patterns. The transcript levels of NRT2:1 were significantly elevated under nitrogen‐limited conditions, but strongly repressed in the presence of ammonium. The transcript levels of NRT2:2 were also repressed by ammonium, but increased 5‐ to 10‐fold under nitrate‐sufficient and nitrogen‐limited conditions. Finally, the transcript levels of NRT2:3 did not vary significantly under various nitrogen conditions, and behaved more like a constitutively expressed gene. Based on the observed transcript variation among NRT2 forms, we propose a revised model describing nitrate uptake kinetics regulated by multiple forms of nitrate transporter genes in response to various nitrogen conditionsmore »in Skeletonema. The differential NRT2 transcriptional responses among species suggest that species‐specific adaptive strategies exist within this genus to cope with environmental changes.« less