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Experimental Warming Differentially Influences the Vulnerability of Phototrophic and Heterotrophic Periphytic Communities to Copper Toxicity

  • Pesce, Stéphane1
  • Lambert, Anne-Sophie1
  • Morin, Soizic2
  • Foulquier, Arnaud1, 3
  • Coquery, Marina1
  • Dabrin, Aymeric1
  • 1 Irstea, UR RiverLy, Centre de Lyon-Villeurbanne, Villeurbanne , (France)
  • 2 Irstea, UR EABX, Centre de Bordeaux, Gazinet-Cestas , (France)
  • 3 UMR CNRS 5553, Laboratoire d’Écologie Alpine, Université Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble , (France)
Published Article
Frontiers in Microbiology
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
Jul 02, 2018
DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.01424
  • Microbiology
  • Original Research


Aquatic ecosystems are generally subjected to multiple perturbations due to simultaneous or successive combinations of various natural and anthropogenic environmental pressures. To better assess and predict the resulting ecological consequences, increasing attention should be given to the accumulation of stresses on freshwater ecosystems and its effects on the vulnerability of aquatic organisms, including microbial communities, which play crucial functional roles. Here we used a microcosm study to assess the influence of an experimental warming on the vulnerability of phototrophic and heterotrophic periphytic communities to acute and chronic copper (Cu) toxicity. Natural periphytic communities were submitted for 4 weeks to three different temperatures (18, 23, and 28°C) in microcosms contaminated (at about 15 μg L-1) or not with Cu. The vulnerability of both phototrophic and heterotrophic microbial communities to subsequent acute Cu stress was then assessed by measuring their levels of sensitivity to Cu from bioassays targeting phototrophic (photosynthetic activity) and heterotrophic (β-glucosidase and leucine aminopeptidase extracellular enzymatic activities) microbial functions. We postulated that both the increase in temperature and the chronic Cu exposure would modify microbial community structure, thus leading to changes in the capacity of phototrophic and heterotrophic communities to tolerate subsequent acute exposure to Cu. Our results demonstrated that the influence of temperature on the vulnerability of phototrophic and heterotrophic microbial communities to Cu toxicity can vary greatly according to function studied. These findings emphasize the importance of considering different functional compartments and different functional descriptors to better assess the vulnerability of periphyton to multiple stresses and predict the risks induced by multiple stressors for ecosystem balance and functioning.

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