Transcriptomics in the tropics: Total RNA-based profiling of Costa Rican bromeliad-associated communities
Evaluating the factors that regulate bacterial growth in natural ecosystems is a major goal of modern microbial ecology. Phytotelm bromeliads have been used as model ecosystems in aquatic ecology as they provide many independent replicates in a small area and often encompass a wide range of limnological conditions. However, as far as we know, there has been no attempt to evaluate the main regulatory factors of bacterial growth in these aquatic ecosystems. Here, we used field surveys to evaluate the main bottom-up factors that regulate bacterial growth in the accumulated water of tank bromeliads. Bacterial production, water temperature, water color, chlorophyll-a, and nutrient concentrations were determined for 147 different tank bromeliads in two different samplings. Bromeliad position and the season of sampling were also noted. Bacterial production was explained by ion ammonium concentration and water temperature, but the total variance explained was low (r 2 = 0.104). Sampling period and bromeliad position were included in additional models that gave empirical support for predicting bacterial production. Bromeliad water tanks are extremely variable aquatic ecosystems in space (among bromeliads) and time (environmental conditions can change within hours), and it is well known that bacterial production responds rapidly to environmental change. Therefore, we concluded that several factors could independently regulate bacterial growth in phytotelm bromeliads depending on the characteristics of each bromeliad, such as location, amount of detritus, and ambient nutrient concentrations. A clear bottom-up limitation pattern of bacterial production in tropical phytotelm bromeliads was not found.