Ongoing Projects

Flexibility matters: Interplay between trait diversity and ecological dynamics using aquatic communities as model systems (DynaTrait) 2015-2018

DFG Priority Programme 1704

Traits that influence the interaction between species are of prime importance for population stability and species coexistence, because variation within these traits will directly determine species fitness and indirectly influence fitness of the interacting partner. In cases of antagonistic interactions including predation and competition variation of these traits will be selectively maintained. Therefore, any attempt in trying to understand diversity-resilience relationships should incorporate the functional variation of species interaction traits of ecosystem keystone species as a mechanistic basis. Here, we propose to investigate the selective maintenance of diversity in allelochemical production, a widespread trait to reduce competition and grazing during blooms of the dinoflagellate Alexandrium ostenfeldii, in relation to abiotic (nutrient limitation and temperature) and biotic (competition and predation) stressors. We will combine field observations, microcosm and chemostat experiments with cyst bed characterization and experimental evolution to link within bloom to between bloom dynamics. We hypothesize that fluctuating selection on allelochemical production and mutualistic interactions between producer and non-producer strains determines population dynamics and maintains diversity during the bloom. Between blooms the large number of compatible and incompatible mating types will be an efficient mechanism to maintain diversity as well as stability of mutualistic interactions. The link between trait diversity and population dynamics during decisive stages of the life cycle will therefore deepen our understanding of the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem stability.

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GPICA 2013-2015

Danish Research Council - Nature and Universe DFF - 1323-00258

Grazer-Phytoplankton Interactions in a Co-evolutionary Context in a changing Arctic Ecosystem.

RETCEL 2015-2017


This project investigates the occurrence and distribution of toxigenic plankton between subpolar regions of the South Atlantic and the Southern Ocean and ist correlation to oceanographic and hydrodynamic parameters.



FAABulous 2015-2017

Future Arctic Algal Blooms - and their role in the context of climate change   This project aims at an integrated assessment of the combined effect of these changes (1-3) on algal blooms in sea ice and water at high latitudes, with respect to bloom phenology, efficiency of primary production, nutritional quality and carbon cycling. The suggested approach combines three components: a) Seasonal observations of two high Arctic fjord ecosystems with contrasting environmental conditions (ice-covered vs. ice-free), including analyses of long-term data on physical oceanography and bloom timing (WP1), b) Manipulative experiments to study the effect of multiple stressors on algal communities, and to characterize physiological qualities of species that explain their competitive success under changing climate conditions (WP2), and c) Implementing the newly gained knowledge in a coupled physical-biological model to study potential algal blooms under different scenarios (WP3).

In cooperation with the Norwegian Research Council.

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DAAD-MINCyT 2015-2016


This project includes phytoplankton monitoringand physico-chemical parameters which influence plankton ecology in at determined sampling station off the Argentinean coast near the seaside resort Monte Hermsoso (38°59′S - 61°25′W) with the following aims:

  1. to identify toxigenic species and bring them into culture,
  2. to detect and quantify phycotoxins,
  3. to investigate the toxins transfer between trophic levels of plankton,
  4. to determine the correllation between seasonal variability of phytoplankton and the occrurrence of toxigenic species with envoronamental parameters,
  5. to identiy and quantify  viable dinoflagellate cysts in the sediment and
  6. risk assessment for aquaculture and fisheries in the region.

IMCONet 2013-2017

EU: FP7-people-2012-IRSES

IMCONet is an international Research Network that follows an interdisciplinary approach to understand the consequences of Climate Change in coastal Western Antarctica. A Network for Staff Exchange and Training. The project brings European, South American and US scientists together to advance climate and (eco-) system change research at the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), a region of recent rapid aerial warming.

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Functional Genomics and Ecological Impact of Viral Infection in the Toxic Haptophyte Prymnesium polylepis 2014-2016

Marie-Curie Intra-European-Fellowship (IEF)

Marine viruses are an active and important component of the microbial loop because they regulate microbial mortality, production, community structure, and biogeochemical cycling. They mediate genetic exchange between microbes, thus affecting the genetic diversity of microbial communities. Although marine viruses control blooms and shape the evolution of biodiversity in phytoplankton, little is known about the factors governing resistance and susceptibility of their hosts. Better understanding the host-virus interaction of marine phytoplankton is necessary to properly address its impact on phytoplankton dynamics, socio-economic activities, and medical applications.
Over the past century, toxic blooms of Prymnesium have devastated increasingly aquaculture and native fish, shellfish, and mollusc populations worldwide. The toxic haptophyte Prymnesium polylepis produces toxins, which have haemolytic properties, that not only kill fish and other filter feeder but also co-existing plankton. Recently, the first virus of P. polylepis was found. The objectives of VINTPRYM are to investigate the interaction and co-evolution of Prymnesium polylepis and its virus and their diversity and population dynamics by field sampling. State-of-the-art RNA-Seq technology will be used to study the infection cycle of P. polylepis and its virus while classical bioassays will be used to measure the toxicity of the alga. Furthermore, environmental samples along the Norwegian coast will be taken to characterize the patterns of abundance and diversity of Prymnesium viruses by using metagenomic anlayses in comparison with PCR amplifications of the major capsid protein. Co-evolutionary aspects will be investigated by sequencing the viral genome and comparing it with the host genome, which is currently sequenced by the hosting group at AWI. VINTPRYM will provide insight into the response of P. polylepis to viral infection in terms of evolution, toxicity, and ecological impact.



PEACE 2015-2017

1) To assess if exposure to chemical pollution (under realistic, sub-lethal conditions) hinders the adaptive capacity of freshwater phytoplankton communities to restructure following abrupt disturbance events associated to extreme weather conditions. 2) To assess if responses of adaptive capacity hindrance are influenced by the history of community exposure to chemical pollution (as, for example, a result of acquired tolerance or evolution). 3) To investigate the mechanisms underpinning the relationship between patterns and changes of morphological/physiological traits with pollution induced responses of adaptive capacity at population and community level.

In cooperation with the Norwegian Research Council

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