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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Interactions between Thermal Acclimation, Growth Rate, and Phylogeny Influence Prochlorococcus Elemental Stoichiometry.

  • Author(s): Martiny, Adam C
  • Ma, Lanying
  • Mouginot, Céline
  • Chandler, Jeremy W
  • Zinser, Erik R
  • et al.

Variability in plankton elemental requirements can be important for global ocean biogeochemistry but we currently have a limited understanding of how ocean temperature influences the plankton C/N/P ratio. Multiple studies have put forward a 'translation-compensation' hypothesis to describe the positive relationship between temperature and plankton N/P or C/P as cells should have lower demand for P-rich ribosomes and associated depressed QP when growing at higher temperature. However, temperature affects many cellular processes beyond translation with unknown outcomes on cellular elemental composition. In addition, the impact of temperature on growth and elemental composition of phytoplankton is likely modulated by the life history and growth rate of the organism. To test the direct and indirect (via growth rate changes) effect of temperature, we here analyzed the elemental composition and ratios in six strains affiliated with the globally abundant marine Cyanobacteria Prochlorococcus. We found that temperature had a significant positive effect on the carbon and nitrogen cell quota, whereas no clear trend was observed for the phosphorus cell quota. The effect on N/P and C/P were marginally significantly positive across Prochlorococcus. The elemental composition and ratios of individual strains were also affected but we found complex interactions between the strain identity, temperature, and growth rate in controlling the individual elemental ratios in Prochlorococcus and no common trends emerged. Thus, the observations presented here does not support the 'translation-compensation' theory and instead suggest unique cellular elemental effects as a result of rising temperature among closely related phytoplankton lineages. Thus, the biodiversity context should be considered when predicting future elemental ratios and how cycles of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus may change in a future ocean.

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