Ecol Evol. 2023 Jan 10;13(1):e9685. doi: 10.1002/ece3.9685. eCollection 2023 Jan.
Biomass dynamics capture information on population dynamics and ecosystem-level processes (e.g., changes in production over time). Understanding how rising temperatures associated with global climate change influence biomass dynamics is thus a pressing issue in ecology. The total biomass of a species depends on its density and its average mass. Consequently, disentangling how biomass dynamics responds to increasingly warm and variable temperatures ultimately depends on understanding how temperature influences both density and mass dynamics. Here, we address this issue by keeping track of experimental microbial populations growing to carrying capacity for 15 days at two different temperatures, and in the presence and absence of temperature variability. We develop a simple mathematical expression to partition the contribution of changes in density and mass to changes in biomass and assess how temperature responses in either one influence biomass shifts. Moreover, we use time-series analysis (Convergent Cross Mapping) to address how temperature and temperature variability influence reciprocal effects of density on mass and vice versa. We show that temperature influences biomass through its effects on density and mass dynamics, which have opposite effects on biomass and can offset each other. We also show that temperature variability influences biomass, but that effect is independent of any effects on density or mass dynamics. Last, we show that reciprocal effects of density and mass shift significantly across temperature regimes, suggesting that rapid and environment-dependent eco-phenotypic dynamics underlie biomass responses. Overall, our results connect temperature effects on population and phenotypic dynamics to explain how biomass responds to temperature regimes, thus shedding light on processes at play in cosmopolitan and abundant microbes as the world experiences increasingly warm and variable temperatures.