Sci Adv 9 (19) eade8352 [2023-05-10; online 2023-05-10]
Earth's life-sustaining oceans harbor diverse bacterial communities that display varying composition across time and space. While particular patterns of variation have been linked to a range of factors, unifying rules are lacking, preventing the prediction of future changes. Here, analyzing the distribution of fast- and slow-growing bacteria in ocean datasets spanning seasons, latitude, and depth, we show that higher seawater temperatures universally favor slower-growing taxa, in agreement with theoretical predictions of how temperature-dependent growth rates differentially modulate the impact of mortality on species abundances. Changes in bacterial community structure promoted by temperature are independent of variations in nutrients along spatial and temporal gradients. Our results help explain why slow growers dominate at the ocean surface, during summer, and near the tropics and provide a framework to understand how bacterial communities will change in a warmer world.