How can phytoplankton evolution be measured in the field?

Tuesday 08 Sep 15
A new letter from the Centre in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences picks up the discussion.

To which degree phytoplankton are able to evolutionarily adapt their ecological niches to the warming oceans, is a question of a high importance as it determines how marine ecosystems react to the climate change. However, outside the controlled lab environments, such adaptations are difficult to measure. In this letter, we comment on a recently published article that produced estimates for phytoplankton niche changes in response to changes in temperature and other environmental factors at a station in the Caribbean Sea. The authors produced niche estimates for two measurement periods 8 years apart and link the differences they find to the evolutionary adaptation. We argue that the estimates are biased, as the environmental variation at the site far from covers the entire ecological niche of most investigated taxa. The identified changes may not be due to evolution but are simply caused by insensitivity to the limited environmental variation observed.

The letter can be found here:

Brun P, Kiørboe T, Payne MR (2015) Measuring evolutionary adaptation of phytoplankton with local field observations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201513353.
24 MAY 2019