The temperature dependence of microbial community respiration is amplified by changes in species interactions

Francisca C. García, Tom Clegg, Daniel Barrios O’Neill, Ruth Warfield, Samraat Pawar*, Gabriel Yvon-Durocher*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Respiratory release of CO2 by microorganisms is one of the main components of the global carbon cycle. However, there are large uncertainties regarding the effects of climate warming on the respiration of microbial communities, owing to a lack of mechanistic, empirically tested theory that incorporates dynamic species interactions. We present a general mathematical model which predicts that thermal sensitivity of microbial community respiration increases as species interactions change from competition to facilitation (for example, commensalism, cooperation and mutualism). This is because facilitation disproportionately increases positive feedback between the thermal sensitivities of species-level metabolic and biomass accumulation rates at warmer temperatures. We experimentally validate our theoretical predictions in a community of eight bacterial taxa and show that a shift from competition to facilitation, after a month of co-adaptation, caused a 60% increase in the thermal sensitivity of respiration relative to de novo assembled communities that had not co-adapted. We propose that rapid changes in species interactions can substantially change the temperature dependence of microbial community respiration, which should be accounted for in future climate–carbon cycle models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-283
Number of pages12
JournalNature Microbiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a European Research Council Starting Grant awarded to G.Y.-D. (ERC StG 677278 TEMPDEP). T.C. was supported by the QMEE CDT, funded by NERC grant no. NE/P012345/1. S.P. was funded by Leverhulme Fellowship RF-2020-653\2 and UK national NERC grants NE/M020843/1 and NE/S000348/1.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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