Microbial transformations of organic carbon (OC) generate a large flux of CO2 into the atmosphere and influence the C balance of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Yet, inherent heterogeneity in natural environments precludes direct quantification of multiple microbial C fluxes that underlie CO2 production. Here we used a continuous flow bioreactor coupled with a stable C isotope analyzer to determine the effects of temperature and C availability (cellobiose concentration) on C fluxes and 13C discrimination of a microbial population growing at steady-state in a homogeneous, well-mixed environment. We estimated C uptake affinity and C use efficiency (CUE) to characterize the physiological responses of microbes to changing environmental conditions. Temperature increased biomass-C specific respiration rate and C uptake affinity at lower C availability, but did not influence those parameters at higher C availability. CUE decreased non-linearly with increasing temperature. The non-linear, negative relationship between CUE and temperature was more pronounced under lower C availability than under relatively high C availability. We observed stable isotope fractionation between C substrate and microbial biomass C (7~12‰ depletion), and between microbial biomass and respired CO2 (4~10‰ depletion). Microbial discrimination against 13C-containing cellobiose during C uptake was influenced by temperature and C availability, while discrimination during respiration was only influenced by C availability. Shifts in C uptake affinity with temperature and C availability may have modified uptake-induced 13C fractionation. By stressing the importance of C availability on temperature responses of microbial C fluxes, C uptake affinity, CUE, and isotopic fractionation, this study contributes to a fundamental understanding of C flow through microbes. This will help guide parameterization of microbial responses to varying temperature and C availability within Earth-system models.
A grant from the One-University Open Access Fund at the University of Kansas was used to defray the author's publication fees in this Open Access journal. The Open Access Fund, administered by librarians from the KU, KU Law, and KUMC libraries, is made possible by contributions from the offices of KU Provost, KU Vice Chancellor for Research & Graduate Studies, and KUMC Vice Chancellor for Research. For more information about the Open Access Fund, please see http://library.kumc.edu/authors-fund.xml.
Min, K., Lehmeier, C. A., Ballantyne IV, F., & Billings, S. A. (2016). Carbon availability modifies temperature responses of heterotrophic microbial respiration, carbon uptake affinity, and stable carbon isotope discrimination. Frontiers in microbiology, 7.