A recent analysis of the Mediterranean Sea surface temperature showed significant annual warming. Since small picoplankton microorganisms play an important role in all major biogeochemical cycles, fluxes and processes occurring in marine systems (the changes at the base of the food web) as a response to human-induced temperature increase, could be amplified through the trophic chains and could also significantly affect different aspects of the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems. In this study, manipulative laboratory growth/grazing experiments were performed under in situ simulated conditions to study the structural and functional changes within the microbial food web after a 3 °C increase in temperature. The results show that a rise in temperature affects the changes in: (1) the growth and grazing rates of picoplankton, (2) their growth efficiency, (3) carrying capacities, (4) sensitivity of their production and grazing mortality to temperature, (5) satisfying protistan grazer carbon demands, (6) their preference in the selection of prey, (7) predator niche breadth and their overlap, (8) apparent uptake rates of nutrients, and (9) carbon biomass flow through the microbial food web. Furthermore, temperature affects the autotrophic and heterotrophic components of picoplankton in different ways.
Keywords: Adriatic Sea; carbon flow; global warming; microbial food web; sensitivity to temperature; trophic interactions.