Warmer night-time temperature promotes microbial heterotrophic activity and modifies stream sediment community

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Diel temperature patterns are changing because of global warming, with higher temperatures being predicted to be more pronounced at night. Biological reactions are temperature dependent, with some occurring only during the daylight hours (e.g., light photosynthesis) and other during the entire day (e.g., respiration). Consequently, we expect the modification of daily temperature cycles to alter microbial biological reactions in stream sediments. Here, we aimed to study the effect of warming and changes of the diel temperature patterns on stream sediment biofilm functions tied to organic carbon decomposition, as well as on biofilm meiofaunal community structure. We performed an eight-week experiment with 12 artificial streams subjected to three different diel temperature patterns: warming, warmer nights and control. Significant effects of warming on biofilm function and structure were mainly detected in the long term. Our results showed that warming altered biofilm function, especially in the warmer nights' treatment, which enhanced β-glucosidase enzyme activity. Interestingly, clear opposite diel patterns were observed for dissolved organic carbon and β-glucosidase activity, suggesting that, at night, sediment bacteria quickly consume the input of photosynthetic dissolved organic carbon labile compounds created during light-time. The biofilm structure was also altered by warming, as both warming and warmer night treatments enhanced copepod abundance and diminished abundances of turbellaria and nematodes, which, in turn, controlled bacterial, algal and ciliate communities. Overall, we conclude that warming has strong effect on sediment biofilm structure and enhanced microbial organic matter degradation which might, consequently, affect higher trophic levels and river carbon cycling.

We performed an eight-week experiment with 12 artificial streams in order to assess the responses of river sediment microbial communities when affected by three different diel temperature treatments: warming (W), warmer nights (WN) and control (C). Our results showed that warmer night-time temperatures stimulated microbial heterotrophic communities during night time, promoting the degradation of labile compounds which consequences on stream carbon cycling. Warming clearly modifies river sediment biofilm structure (i.e., meiofauna abundances) with likely consequences at higher trophic levels.

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