Phytoplankton size: Climate adaption and long-term evolution
About the project
Marine phytoplankton form the basis of the marine food chain and are crucial players within the global biogeochemical cycling of carbon and other key elements (e.g. phosphorus, nitrogen). The overall ecological success of marine phytoplankton, but also its taxonomic diversity and size distribution, determines the efficiency by which fixed carbon is transferred to higher trophic levels and into the deep ocean- and sedimentary carbon reservoirs.
Concern is growing that rising temperatures, increased levels of atmospheric CO2 and lowering of ocean pH may disrupt primary productivity in the future oceans. Previous culture experiments on coccolithophores, a prominent group of calcifying marine algae, have shown that the physiological responses to the same environmental gradients vary both between and within species. This likely relates to differences in evolutionary history of different lineages and genotypes. However, these observations greatly complicate our predictions of how marine algae may adapt to future climatic scenarios.
We propose to use a comprehensive approach to study the adaptive response of marine algae to climatic change across ecological and evolutionary time scales. We will combine observations in the fossil record and laboratory experiments on living coccolithophores as a basis for innovative evolutionary models that are build as time series of adaptive evolution of algal size around an optimal state. The models will test the influence of environmental variables on this optimum, and determine how fast the species are evolving towards their optimal state. By focusing on several key coccolithophore clades, we expect to gain novel insights into species- and genotypic-specific responses in living algae. The outcome of this project will provide groundbreaking insights into how algae have adapted to past environmental change, and help predict how they may adapt to climatic change in future.
This project funded by The Research Council of Norway.
Start: 1.6.2010. End: 31.12.2013.