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Mesozooplankton response to temperature increase during spring succession: potential effects of the climate change


The phytoplankton spring bloom in temperate waters is initiated by the improvement of light supply. Temperature may only play an indirect role in deep waters, where the onset of thermal stratification is required for phytoplankton growth. Thus, phytoplankt on growth in shallow waters would be controlled by photoperiod, being independent of temperature.

In contrast, zooplankton production is clearly influenced by temperature. Given the different response of phytoplankton and zooplankton production to temperature, the predicted climate change would affect the coupling between these two trophic levels. The main goal of this project is to investigate how the spring succession of phyto- and zooplankton will change in response to the climate change, in particular to winter warming.

We will take the Kiel Bight (Baltic Sea) as a model system, where the start of the spring bloom is expected to be independent of temperature because of the shallow waters found there (mostly < 20m). This system appears therefore as particularly suitable for the question of match and mismatch, which is the core concept of the project.

The experimental work will be performed in indoor mesocosms of ~ 1000 l., in which we will examine the relationships between phyto- and zooplankton at four different temperatures: T0 (temperature in situ), T+2 (2ºC above T0), T+4, and T+6. In each of these thermal scenarios, we will carry out measurements of phyto- and mesozooplankton biomass and size structure, mesozooplankton growth, ingestion, and metabolic rates, and trophic position of the mesozooplankton.

From the results obtained, we expect to infer the consequences of the climate change, through its effects on mesozooplankton, on the functioning of aquatic systems in which the phytoplankton spring bloom is controlled by photoperiod. This project will be developed in the framework of AQUASHIFT, a comprehensive programme focused on the climate change impact on shallow waters.

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