Temperature and Phosphorus Interacts in Controlling the Picoplankton Carbon Flux in the Adriatic Sea: An Experimental Versus Field Study

Environ Microbiol. 2019 Jul;21(7):2469-2484. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.14634. Epub 2019 May 7.


Temperature and phosphorus positively interacted in controlling picoplankton biomass production and its transfer towards higher trophic levels. Two complementary approaches (experimental and field study) indicated several coherent patterns: (1) the impact of temperature on heterotrophic bacteria was high at temperatures lower than 16°C and levelled off at higher temperatures, whereas this impact on autotrophic picoplankton was linear along the entire range of the investigated temperatures; (2) the addition of phosphorus increased the values of picoplankton production and grazing, but did not change the nature of their relationships with temperature substantially; (3) the picoplankton carbon flux towards higher trophic levels was larger during the warmer months (grazing by HNF dominated during the warmer period and by ciliates during the colder period) and also strengthened in conditions without phosphorus limitation; (4) the hypothesis that the available phosphorus can be better utilized at higher temperatures was confirmed for both autotrophic and heterotrophic picoplankton; (5) the hypothesis that the rise in temperature stimulates growth only in conditions of sufficient phosphorus was confirmed only for heterotrophic bacteria. Therefore, in the global warming scenario, an increase of the picoplankton carbon flux towards higher trophic levels can be expected in the Adriatic Sea, particularly under unlimited phosphorus conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autotrophic Processes
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Biomass
  • Carbon Cycle
  • Heterotrophic Processes
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Phosphorus / metabolism*
  • Plankton / classification
  • Plankton / genetics
  • Plankton / growth & development
  • Plankton / metabolism*
  • Temperature


  • Phosphorus