Thermal traits govern the response of microbial community dynamics and ecosystem functioning to warming

Francisca C. Garcia*, Ruth Warfield, Gabriel Yvon-Durocher*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding the ecological processes that underpin the dynamics of community turnover in response to environmental change is critical to predicting how warming will influence ecosystem functioning. Here, we quantify the effect of changing temperature on community composition and ecosystem functioning via the action of ecological selection on population-level thermal traits. To achieve this, we use microbes isolated from a network of geothermal streams in Iceland where in situ temperatures span 8–38°C within a single catchment. We first quantified variability in thermal tolerance between taxa, and then assembled synthetic communities along a broad thermal gradient to explore how temperature-driven selection on thermal tolerance traits shaped the emergent community structures and functions. We found marked changes in community structure and composition with temperature, such that communities exposed to extreme temperatures (10, 35°C) had highly asymmetric biomass distributions and low taxonomic richness. Thermal optima were a good predictor of the presence and relative abundance of taxa in the high-temperature treatments. We also found that the evenness of the abundance distribution was related to ecosystem production, such that communities with more equitable abundance distribution were also the most productive. Our results highlight the utility of using a multi-level approach that links population-level traits with community structure and ecosystem functioning to better understand how ecological communities will respond to global warming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number906252
StatePublished - Aug 17 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a European Research Council (ERC) grant awarded to GY-D (ERC StG 677278 TEMPDEP).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Garcia, Warfield and Yvon-Durocher.


  • community structure
  • diversity
  • ecosystem functioning
  • microbes
  • temperature
  • traits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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