Genetic diversity and phenotypic variability in Baltic Sea phytoplankton populations: Implications for ecological processes and adaptation to environmental change (PHYTOVAR)


Biodiversity is an important factor for the stability and functioning of ecosystems. Biodiversity at the population level may functionally replace the stabilizing role of species diversity in species poor systems experiencing rapid anthropogenic change, such as the Baltic Sea.  This project investigates the population diversity of three Baltic key phytoplankton species: the diatom Skeletonema marinoi  and the bloom-forming dinoflagellates Scrippsiella hangoei and Alexandrium ostenfeldii and examines the role of such diversity in ecological processes of the pelagic system and in adaptation to changing environmental conditions. Specifically, we (1) analyze the genetic diversity and physiological trait variability and plasticity within Baltic populations using molecular and ecophysiological methods, (2) experimentally test the effects of different diversity levels on system-level processes such as primary production, resource use efficiency and trophic interactions and (3) investigate the role of genetic diversity in the response of phytoplankton to disturbance and change. The generated knowledge is used to assess whether Baltic populations of key primary producers are diverse enough to provide and maintain stability of the ecological processes they determine, under conditions of environmental change. This is an important prerequisite to predict the response of the Baltic ecosystem to ongoing climate change and other anthropogenic pressures.

More information

Dr. Anke Kremp, senior researcher, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE,, phone: +358 40 182 3245

Published 2013-04-24 at 10:00, updated 2013-04-24 at 9:59