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  • Writer's pictureACTNOW Project

New ACTNOW paper published: Long-term warming and human-induced plankton shifts in Eastern Mediterranean

Kleopatra Kalloniati (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens) and her colleagues investigated how long-term changes of plankton biomass and timing of growth are influenced by seawater warming. Their article was published in Nature Scientific Reports (2023).


A graphical abstract showing the results of Kalloniati et al. 2023


Abstract:

Plankton are key ecological indicators for assessing the impacts of human-induced pressures like climate change and waste-water discharge. Here, 26 years (1988–2015) of biweekly in-situ chlorophyll-a concentration, mesozooplankton biomass and remotely-sensed sea surface temperature (SST) data are utilized to investigate long-term changes of plankton biomass and timing of growth (phenology) in relation to warming, in a coastal region of the Saronikos Gulf (Aegean Sea). A Waste-Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) was established in 1995, leading to decreased nutrient concentrations circa 2004. Overall, the results indicate an interplay between warming and changes in ecological status. During higher nutrient input (1989–2004), a temporal mismatch between zooplankton and phytoplankton, and a positive zooplankton growth—SST association, are evident. Conversely, in the warmer, less mesotrophic period 2005–2015, an earlier timing of zooplankton growth (related to copepod abundance) synchronizes with phytoplankton growth, including a secondary autumn growth period. Concurrently, an abrupt negative interannual relationship between SST and mesozooplankton, and a summer biomass decrease (linked with cladoceran abundance) are observed. This work provides evidence that current warming could alter plankton abundance and phenology in nearshore Eastern Mediterranean ecosystems, suggesting shifts in plankton community composition that could trigger potential cascading effects on higher trophic levels.


Read full article:

K. Kalloniati, E. D. Christou, A. Kournopoulou, J. A. Gittings, I. Theodorou, S. Zervoudaki & D. E. Raitsos (2023): Long-term warming and human-induced plankton shifts at a coastal Eastern Mediterranean site. In: Nature Scientific Reports, Vol 13, 21068.

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