The temperature dependence of phytoplankton stoichiometry: investigating the roles of species sorting and local adaptation.
Frontiers in Microbiology
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The elemental composition of phytoplankton (C:N:P stoichiometry) is a critical factor regulating nutrient cycling, primary production and energy transfer through planktonic food webs. Our understanding of the multiple direct and indirect mechanisms through which temperature controls phytoplankton stoichiometry is however incomplete, increasing uncertainty in the impacts of global warming on the biogeochemical functioning of aquatic ecosystems. Here, we use a decade-long warming experiment in outdoor freshwater ponds to investigate how temperature-driven turnover in species composition and shifts in stoichiometric traits within species through local thermal adaptation contribute to the effects of warming on seston stoichiometry. We found that experimental warming increased seston C:P and N:P ratios, while the C:N ratio was unaffected by warming. Temperature was also the dominant driver of seasonal variation in seston stoichiometry, correlating positively with both C:P and N:P ratios. The taxonomic composition of the phytoplankton community differed substantially between the warmed and ambient treatments indicating that warming resulted in differential sorting of species from the regional pool. Furthermore, taxonomic composition also changed markedly over the year within each of the warmed and ambient treatments, highlighting substantial temporal turnover in species. To investigate whether local adaptation also played an important role in shaping the effects of warming on seston stoichiometry, we isolated multiple strains of the cosmopolitan alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii from across the warmed and ambient mesocosms. We found that warmed isolates had higher C:P and N:P ratios, shifts that were comparable in direction and magnitude to the effects of warming on seston stoichiometry. Our results suggest that both species sorting and local adaptation are likely to play important roles in shaping the effects of warming on bulk phytoplankton stoichiometry and indicate that major shifts in aquatic biogeochemistry should be expected in a warmer world.
This study was supported by a grant from the Natural Environment Research Council of the UK (NE/H022511/1) awarded to MT and GYD a Leverhulme Trust research grant (RPG-2013-335) awarded to GYD, and an ERC starting grant awarded to GYD (677278 TEMPDEP).
This is the final version of the article. Available from the publisher via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 8, 2003
PubMed Central ID
- Biosciences 
Place of publication