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Quantification of carbon and phosphorus co-limitation in bacterioplankton: new insights on an old topic

Quantification of carbon and phosphorus co-limitation in bacterioplankton: new insights on an old topic

Plos one 9(6): E99288

Because the nature of the main resource that limits bacterioplankton (e.g. organic carbon [C] or phosphorus [P]) has biogeochemical implications concerning organic C accumulation in freshwater ecosystems, empirical knowledge is needed concerning how bacteria respond to these two resources, available alone or together. We performed field experiments of resource manipulation (2×2 factorial design, with the addition of C, P, or both combined) in two Mediterranean freshwater ecosystems with contrasting trophic states (oligotrophy vs. eutrophy) and trophic natures (autotrophy vs. heterotrophy, measured as gross primary production:respiration ratio). Overall, the two resources synergistically co-limited bacterioplankton, i.e. the magnitude of the response of bacterial production and abundance to the two resources combined was higher than the additive response in both ecosystems. However, bacteria also responded positively to single P and C additions in the eutrophic ecosystem, but not to single C in the oligotrophic one, consistent with the value of the ratio between bacterial C demand and algal C supply. Accordingly, the trophic nature rather than the trophic state of the ecosystems proves to be a key feature determining the expected types of resource co-limitation of bacteria, as summarized in a proposed theoretical framework. The actual types of co-limitation shifted over time and partially deviated (a lesser degree of synergism) from the theoretical expectations, particularly in the eutrophic ecosystem. These deviations may be explained by extrinsic ecological forces to physiological limitations of bacteria, such as predation, whose role in our experiments is supported by the relationship between the dynamics of bacteria and bacterivores tested by SEMs (structural equation models). Our study, in line with the increasingly recognized role of freshwater ecosystems in the global C cycle, suggests that further attention should be focussed on the biotic interactions that modulate resource co-limitation of bacteria.

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Accession: 055313036

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PMID: 24918445

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0099288

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