Control of microbial communities by the macrofauna: A sensitive interaction in the context of extreme summer temperatures?

  • Viergutz C
  • Kathol M
  • Norf H
 et al. 
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Climate models predict an increasing frequency of extremely hot summer events in the northern hemisphere for the near future. We hypothesised that microbial grazing by the metazoan macrofauna is an interaction that becomes unbalanced at high temperatures due to the different development of the grazing rates of the metazoans and the growth rates of the microbial community with increasing temperature. In order to test this hypothesis, we performed grazing experiments in which we measured the impact of increasing temperatures on the development of the grazing rates of riverine mussels in relation to the growth rates of a unicellular prey community (a natural heterotrophic flagellate community from a large river). In a first experimental series using Corbicula fluminea as a grazer and under the addition of a carbon source (yeast extract), the increase of the prey's growth rates was considerably stronger than that of the predator's grazing rates when temperatures were increased from 19 to over 25 degrees C. This was also the outcome when the mussels had been acclimatized to warm temperatures. Hereafter, specific experiments with natural river water at temperatures of 25 and 30 degrees C were performed. Again, a strong decrease of the mussels' grazing rates in relation to the flagellate growth rates with increasing temperature occurred for two mussel species (C. fluminea and Dreissena polymorpha). When performing the same experiment using a benthic microbial predator community (biofilms dominated by ciliates) instead of the benthic mussels, an increase of the grazing rates relative to the growth rates with temperature could be observed. Our data suggest that predator-prey interactions (between metazoans and microbes) that are balanced at moderate temperatures could become unbalanced at high temperatures. This could have significant effects on the structure and function of microbial communities in light of the predicted increasing frequency of summer heat waves.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Benthic filter feeders
  • Gobal warming
  • Heterotrophic nanoflagellates
  • Rivers
  • Trophic interaction

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