Climate change is increasing water temperature and intensifying the incidence of cyanobacterial blooms worldwide. However, the combined effects of increased temperature and microcystin concentrations as co-stressors on survival and ecological processes in freshwater species are unclear. Here, using purified MC-LR and crude extract of toxigenic Microcystis aeruginosa, we tested the individual and combined effects of three water temperatures (15, 20, 25 °C) and a range of environmentally relevant concentrations of dissolved microcystin and crude extract (0.01–10 µg·L−1) on survival, growth inhibition, grazing and predation rates in three freshwater species: phytoplankton (Scenedesmus quadricauda), zooplankton (Daphnia pulex), and an invertebrate predator (Ischnura elegans). Purified MC-LR exerted a higher growth inhibitory effect on S. quadricauda compared to crude extract with the same concentration of MC-LR, while neither treatment affected its chlorophyll-a content or survival of D. pulex. Crude extract reduced grazing and survival of D. pulex and I. elegans, respectively. The combined effect of higher temperature and crude extract reduced I. elegans survival by 50%. Increased temperature reduced prey handing time in I. elegans by 49%, suggesting a higher predation rate. However, warming together with higher concentrations of crude extract jointly increased zooplankton grazing and reduced damselfly predation. Taken together, these results suggest crude extract, and not necessarily microcystin, can affect survival and productivity in freshwater species, although these effects may vary unevenly across trophic levels. Our findings highlight the importance of complex ecological mechanisms by which warming can exacerbate toxic effects of cyanobacterial bloom extracts on survival and functions among species in eutrophic freshwaters.
This article was published in Oecologia. Read the full original article here