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Ocean warming enhances respiration and carbon demand of coastal microbial plankton


Evaristo Vázquez-Domínguez, tel. +34 93 230 9500, fax +34 93 230 95 55, e-mail:


The increase of anthropogenic CO2 during this century is expected to cause warming of large regions of the ocean. Microbes lead the biological role in the CO2 balance of marine ecosystems, their activity is known to be influenced by temperature, and it is important to constrain and quantify these effects on bacterial carbon use. Furthermore, if warming were to enhance the carbon demand (production + respiration) of planktonic microbes but would maintain their efficiency low (as it generally is), then most carbon consumed would end up respired. We designed a strategy in which we measured bacterial production and respiration throughout a seasonal cycle in a coastal Mediterranean site, and determined experimentally the effects of ca. 2.5 °C on these processes. We show that warming will increase nearly 20% the total carbon demand of coastal microbial plankton without any effect on their (commonly low) growth efficiency, which could generate a positive feedback between coastal warming and CO2 production.

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