ISME J 17 (6) 855-869 [2023-06-00; online 2023-03-28]
Besides long-term average temperature increases, climate change is projected to result in a higher frequency of marine heatwaves. Coastal zones are some of the most productive and vulnerable ecosystems, with many stretches already under anthropogenic pressure. Microorganisms in coastal areas are central to marine energy and nutrient cycling and therefore, it is important to understand how climate change will alter these ecosystems. Using a long-term heated bay (warmed for 50 years) in comparison with an unaffected adjacent control bay and an experimental short-term thermal (9 days at 6-35 °C) incubation experiment, this study provides new insights into how coastal benthic water and surface sediment bacterial communities respond to temperature change. Benthic bacterial communities in the two bays reacted differently to temperature increases with productivity in the heated bay having a broader thermal tolerance compared with that in the control bay. Furthermore, the transcriptional analysis showed that the heated bay benthic bacteria had higher transcript numbers related to energy metabolism and stress compared to the control bay, while short-term elevated temperatures in the control bay incubation experiment induced a transcript response resembling that observed in the heated bay field conditions. In contrast, a reciprocal response was not observed for the heated bay community RNA transcripts exposed to lower temperatures indicating a potential tipping point in community response may have been reached. In summary, long-term warming modulates the performance, productivity, and resilience of bacterial communities in response to warming.