Drift in ocean currents impacts intergenerational microbial exposure to temperature

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2016, 113 (20), pp. 5700 - 5705
Issue Date:
2016-05-17
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Microbes are the foundation of marine ecosystems [Falkowski PG, Fenchel T, Delong EF (2008) Science 320(5879):1034-1039]. Until now, the analytical framework for understanding the implications of ocean warming on microbes has not considered thermal exposure during transport in dynamic seascapes, implying that our current view of change for these critical organisms may be inaccurate. Here we show that upper-ocean microbes experience along-trajectory temperature variability up to 10 °C greater than seasonal fluctuations estimated in a static frame, and that this variability depends strongly on location. These findings demonstrate that drift in ocean currents can increase the thermal exposure of microbes and suggests that microbial populations with broad thermal tolerance will survive transport to distant regions of the ocean and invade new habitats. Our findings also suggest that advection has the capacity to influence microbial community assemblies, such that regions with strong currents and large thermal fluctuations select for communities with greatest plasticity and evolvability, and communities with narrow thermal performance are found where ocean currents are weak or along-trajectory temperature variation is low. Given that fluctuating environments select for individual plasticity in microbial lineages, and that physiological plasticity of ancestors can predict the magnitude of evolutionary responses of subsequent generations to environmental change [Schaum CE, Collins S (2014) Proc Biol Soc 281(1793):20141486], our findings suggest that microbial populations in the sub-Antarctic (∼40°S), North Pacific, and North Atlantic will have the most capacity to adapt to contemporary ocean warming.
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