Microbial productivity in variable resource environments

Jay T Lennon, Kathryn L Cottingham


The rate, timing, and quality of resource supply exert strong controls on a wide range of ecological processes. In particular, resource-mediated changes in microbial activity have the potential to alter ecosystem processes, including the production and respiration of organic matter. In this study, we used field experiments and simulation modeling to explore how aquatic heterotrophic bacteria respond to variation in resource quality (low vs. high) and resource schedule (pulse vs. press). Field experiments revealed that one-time pulse additions of resources in the form of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) caused short-lived (< or =48 h) peaks in bacterial productivity (BP), which translated into large differences across treatments: cumulative BP was twice as high in the pulse vs. press treatment under low resource quality, and five times as high under high resource quality. To gain a more mechanistic understanding of microbial productivity in variable resource environments, we constructed a mathematical model to explore the attributes of bacterial physiology and DOC supply that might explain the patterns observed in our field experiments. Model results suggest that the mobilization rate of refractory to labile carbon, an index of re...Continue Reading


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