Effects of experimental warming and increased ultraviolet B radiation on the Mediterranean plankton food web

Vidussi, Francesca, Behzad Mostajir, Eric Fouilland, Emilie Le Floc’h, Jean Nouguier, Cécile Roques, Patrice Got, Delphine Thibault-Botha, Thierry Bouvier, and Marc Troussellier

Limnol. Oceanogr., 56(1), 2011, 206-218 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2011.56.1.0206

ABSTRACT: The responses of the plankton food web to increases in temperature and ultraviolet B radiation (UVBR, 280-320 nm) were experimentally investigated at a coastal Mediterranean site during spring. Eight moored mesocosms were used to compare natural plankton food web responses (control mesocosms) with three treatments simulating expected future local temperature and UVBR increases, as follows: (1) 3°C increase in water temperature, (2) 20% increase in incident UVBR, and (3) simultaneous 3°C increase in water temperature and 20% increase in incident UVBR. The plankton food web was resistant to elevated UVBR, having only moderate effects on plankton abundances and structure. In contrast, warming induced significant shifts in the plankton food web structure and function. Specifically, the abundance of protozooplankton (ciliates and flagellates) increased and the development time of copepods from nauplii to adults decreased. In the warm mesocosms, the emergence of copepod adult stages midway through the experiment resulted in a decrease in ciliates and consequently in an increase in heterotrophic flagellates. One unexpected result was that warming reduced the abundance of heterotrophic bacteria midway through the experiment. These results indicate a trophic-cascade effect under warming. The increase in adult copepods diminishes ciliates and in turn favors heterotrophic flagellates that consume bacteria. Warming also induced an increase in net oxygen production, indicating an increase in net primary production.

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