Unravelling microbial interactions in aquatic ecosystems: an improved model of microbial controls on nutrient processing
This study will improve the current understanding and management of eutrophication and algal blooms by studying the microbial interactions and their role in shaping the rates and pathways of nutrient cycling processes in aquatic ecosystems. It aims to examine the nutrient flux pathways between bacteria, viruses, phytoplankton and zooplankton, and key dynamics that ultimately shape algal populations. A conceptual model will be developed based on the theory of metabolic scaling, and this will consider the role of organism size and stoichiometric requirements as the fundamental principle guiding microbial interactions. The model will first be developed under controlled laboratory conditions and then applied within a coupled hydrodynamic-biogeochemical model in order to determine how the microbial interactions manifest within a dynamic estuarine environment. The model will provide an improved basis for water quality prediction and ultimately help manage aquatic ecosystems in a changing climate.
Aquatic ecosystems play an important role in supporting economic, recreational and ecological aspects of a sustainable society. However, with increasing human activities, large quantities of nutrients have been mobilized into coastal waters, estuaries and lakes worldwide, which frequently results in eutrophication problems and the associated degradation cycle is expected to be exacerbated with climate change. In order to better understand eutrophication processes it is necessary to better understand microbial controls on nutrient cycling processes.