Anderson, S.I., Barton, A.D., Clayton, S., and S. Dutkiewicz (2021), Marine phytoplankton functional types exhibit diverse responses to thermal change, Nature Communications, doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-26651-8
Marine phytoplankton generate half of global primary production, making them essential to ecosystem functioning and biogeochemical cycling. Though phytoplankton are phylogenetically diverse, studies rarely designate unique thermal traits to different taxa, resulting in coarse representations of phytoplankton thermal responses. Here we assessed phytoplankton functional responses to temperature using empirically derived thermal growth rates from four principal contributors to marine productivity: diatoms, dinoflagellates, cyanobacteria, and coccolithophores. Using modeled sea surface temperatures for 1950–1970 and 2080–2100, we explored potential alterations to each group’s growth rates and geographical distribution under a future climate change scenario. Contrary to the commonly applied Eppley formulation, our data suggest phytoplankton functional types may be characterized by different temperature coefficients (Q10), growth maxima thermal dependencies, and thermal ranges which would drive dissimilar responses to each degree of temperature change. These differences, when applied in response to global simulations of future temperature, result in taxon-specific projections of growth and geographic distribution, with low-latitude coccolithophores facing considerable decreases and cyanobacteria substantial increases in growth rates. These results suggest that the singular effect of changing temperature may alter phytoplankton global community structure, owing to the significant variability in thermal response between phytoplankton functional types.