Impact of MIXotrophs on the sTRUCTure of the marine pelagic food Web
Marine microorganisms constitute the basis for harvestable resources from the ocean, and are pivotal for balancing climate on earth. By combining theoretical models and empirical research, we have previously demonstrated how differences in the marine food web structure affect the biogeochemistry and functioning in the lower part of the marine pelagic food web, but also identified that we have not yet been able to account for the role that mixotrophic single celled organisms (those that combine phototrophy with phagotrophy) play. Elevated temperature, increased precipitation and riverine runoff are documented consequences of current climate change. Net result of such changes is increased input of organic carbon to marine ecosystems. We argue that this potentially favors mixotrophic organisms, and MIXsTRUCT will therefore combine molecular- and flow cytometry tools, and develop an approach suitable to quantify and identify such organisms in nature. Through small (laboratory) and large-scale (mesocosm) experiments as well as field observations, we will investigate how bacterivorous mixotrophy affects the marine pelagic food web´s structure and function, and to what extent elevated organic carbon content in the ocean affects the mixotrophs´ performance and impact. Through cooperation with nearby primary school (Christi Krybbe) and The Centre for Science Education (UiB ("Skolelaben")) MIXsTRUCT will raise the next generation´s level of knowledge about and excitement over, the diverse marine microbial life. This involvement will increase the awareness of pupils, teachers and parents of the value of science per se, and challenge and improve our own ability to communicate complex processes within the "invisible" part of the marine ecosystem with a non-scientific audience.