09 Aug 2022
09 Aug 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Contrasting activation energies of respiration and nutrient uptake drive lower ecosystem-level uptake at higher temperatures

Nathan Tomczyk1, Amy Rosemond1, Anna Kaz2, and Jonathan Benstead3 Nathan Tomczyk et al.
  • 1Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30606 USA
  • 2Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803 USA
  • 3Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35487 USA

Abstract. 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 at the ecosystem level. 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 0.12–0.48 eV over a 11–212 µg L-1 gradient in initial concentrations. Finally, despite our laboratory experiments showing increases in mass-specific rates of gross P uptake with temperature, our simulation models found 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 ecosystem-level 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/magnitude on carbon processing as important controls of nutrient processing.

Nathan Tomczyk et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2022-146', Anonymous Referee #1, 23 Aug 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on bg-2022-146', Anonymous Referee #2, 24 Aug 2022

Nathan Tomczyk et al.

Nathan Tomczyk et al.


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Short summary
Warming is expected to increase rates of microbial metabolism, but the effect of warming on nutrient demand is unclear. Our experiments demonstrate that microbial nutrient uptake increases less with temperature than metabolism, particularly when environmental nutrient concentrations are low. However, our simulation models suggest that warming may actually lead to declines in ecosystem-scale nutrient uptake as warming accelerates the depletion of carbon substrates required for microbial growth.