Impact of local temperature increase on the early development of biofilm-associated ciliate communities
Indications of global climate change and associated unusual temperature fluctuations have become increasingly obvious over the past few decades. Consequently, the relevance of temperature increases for ecological communities and for whole ecosystems is one of the major challenges of current ecological research. One approach to investigating the effects of increasing temperatures on communities is the use of fast-growing microbial communities. Here we introduce a river bypass system in which we tested the effect of temperature increases (0, 2, 4, 6°C above the long-term average) on both the colonization speed and the carrying capacity of biofilm-associated ciliate communities under different seasonal scenarios. We further investigated interactions of temperature and resource availability by cross-manipulations in order to test the hypothesis that temperature-mediated effects will be strongest in environments that are not resource-limited. Strong seasonal differences in both tested parameters occurred under natural conditions (no resource addition), and the effects of temperature increase at a given time were relatively low. However, increasing temperature can significantly accelerate the colonization speed and reduce the carrying capacity in particular seasons. These effects were strongest in winter. Simultaneous manipulation of temperature and of resource availability amplified the response to temperature increase, adumbrating strong interactive control of populations by temperature and resource availability. Our results show that the response of communities to local temperature increases strongly depends on the seasonal setting, the resource availability and the stage of succession (early colonization speed vs. carrying capacity).