Contrasting activation energies of litter-associated respiration and P uptake drive lower cumulative P uptake at higher temperatures

Figure 4. Photo credit: Biogeosciences


Heterotrophic microbes play key roles in regulating fluxes of energy and nutrients, which are increasingly affected by globally changing environmental conditions such as warming and nutrient enrichment. While the effects of temperature and nutrients on microbial mineralization of carbon have been studied in some detail, much less attention has been given to how these factors are altering uptake rates of nutrients. We used laboratory experiments to simultaneously evaluate the temperature dependence of soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) uptake and respiration by leaf-litter-associated microbial communities from temperate headwater streams. Additionally, we evaluated the influence of the initial concentration of SRP on the temperature dependence of P uptake. Finally, we used simple simulation models to extrapolate our results and estimate the effect of warming and P availability on cumulative gross uptake. We found that the temperature dependence of P uptake was lower than that of respiration (0.48 vs. 1.02 eV). Further, the temperature dependence of P uptake increased with the initial concentration of SRP supplied, ranging from 0.12 to 0.48 eV over an 11 to 212 µg L−1 gradient in initial SRP concentration. Finally, despite our laboratory experiments showing increases in mass-specific rates of gross P uptake with temperature, our simulation models predict declines in cumulative P uptake with warming, because the increased rates of respiration at warmer temperatures more rapidly depleted benthic carbon substrates and consequently reduced the biomass of the benthic microbial community. Thus, even though mass-specific rates of P uptake were higher at the warmer temperatures, cumulative P uptake was lower over the residence time of a pulsed input of organic carbon. Our results highlight the need to consider the combined effects of warming, nutrient availability, and resource availability and/or magnitude on carbon processing as important controls of nutrient processing in heterotrophic ecosystems.

Biogeosciences 20