Live to tell: Have phytoplankton evolved in response to environmental pollution?
Oceans are changing in response to human activities, such as pollution, eutrophication and climate change. Large changes to ecosystems can be striking, but there are more subtle, yet no less important, changes in species composition and adaptation. In this project we investigate how metal pollution affects diatoms, a group of microalgae responsible for 20% of global primary production. Diatoms form dormant cells that sink to bottom of the ocean where they can remain viable for centuries. We use these seedbanks to track how the past century of pollution in the Baltic Sea has affected diatom community composition, and metal tolerance of individual cells as well as their genetic structure. By looking back in time, we can learn about how organisms adapt to an uncertain future, were human activities will continue to change their environment.