Microbial Ecology

, Volume 68, Issue 1, pp 132–145 | Cite as

Effects of Warming on Stream Biofilm Organic Matter Use Capabilities

  • Irene Ylla
  • Cristina Canhoto
  • Anna M. RomaníEmail author
Environmental Microbiology


The understanding of ecosystem responses to changing environmental conditions is becoming increasingly relevant in the context of global warming. Microbial biofilm communities in streams play a key role in organic matter cycling which might be modulated by shifts in flowing water temperature. In this study, we performed an experiment at the Candal stream (Portugal) longitudinally divided into two reaches: a control half and an experimental half where water temperature was 3 °C above that of the basal stream water. Biofilm colonization was monitored during 42 days in the two stream halves. Changes in biofilm function (extracellular enzyme activities and carbon substrate utilization profiles) as well as chlorophyll a and prokaryote densities were analyzed. The biofilm in the experimental half showed a higher capacity to decompose cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, and peptidic compounds. Total leucine-aminopeptidase, cellobiohydrolase and β-xylosidase showed a respective 93, 66, and 61 % increase in activity over the control; much higher than would be predicted by only the direct temperature physical effect. In contrast, phosphatase and lipase activity showed the lowest sensitivity to temperature. The biofilms from the experimental half also showed a distinct functional fingerprint and higher carbon usage diversity and richness, especially due to a wider use of polymers and carbohydrates. The changes in the biofilm functional capabilities might be indirectly affected by the higher prokaryote and chlorophyll density measured in the biofilm of the experimental half. The present study provides evidence that a realistic stream temperature increase by 3 °C changes the biofilm metabolism to a greater decomposition of polymeric complex compounds and peptides but lower decomposition of lipids. This might affect stream organic matter cycling and the transfer of carbon to higher trophic levels.


Extracellular Polymeric Substance Soluble Reactive Phosphorus Phenol Oxidase Extracellular Enzyme Activity Phenol Oxidase Activity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was supported by the European Fund for Economic and Regional Development (FEDER) through the Program Operational Factors of Competitiveness (COMPETE) and National Funds through the Portuguese Foundation of Science and Technology under the project “Predicting the effect of global warming on stream ecosystems” (PTDC/CLI/67180/2006; and by the project CGL2011-30151-C02-01 of the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. We thank Ana Lúcia Gonçalves, Ana Lírio, Cátia Domingues, Inês Castro and João Rosa for their field and laboratory assistance. We also thank Anna Freixa and Erola Fenollosa for their help in data processing. We would like to further thank the anonymous reviewers whose comments have helped to improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irene Ylla
    • 1
  • Cristina Canhoto
    • 2
  • Anna M. Romaní
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute of Aquatic EcologyUniversity of Girona, Campus de MontiliviGironaSpain
  2. 2.IMAR-CMA & Department of Life SciencesUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal

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