Wildlife adapts to changes in the Baltic Sea

The Tvärminne Zoological Station studies changes in the Baltic Sea and their impact on habitats. The roach population, for example, has grown, whereas the number of blue mussels has decreased.

Wildlife adapts to changes in the Baltic Sea

The Tvärminne research teams are interested in the combined effects of climate change and other environmental factors. For example, how they impact on the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea. The station's field season was launched yesterday, and the most recent research results were also announced.

“Wildlife adapts to changing circumstances, but humans should also keep up with this progress. Up-to-date information provides the means to favour those species of fish which would seem to cope with changed circumstances,” says Marko Reinikainen, Vice Director of the station.

Evolutionary biologists, in particular, study the adaptation of wildlife. Academy Research Fellow Ulrika Candolin, together with her research team, has discovered that fish originating from a similar environment are better able to find each other during the spawning season.

It seems that fish that have grown up in bright waters identify each other by relying on their sight, whereas fish from cloudy waters use rely on their sense of smell.

Studies dealing with the ecology of blue mussels are also being carried out.

“The blue mussel population has somewhat decreased, partly owing to the decrease in the salinity of the Baltic Sea. The roach population, which feeds on mussels, has grown dramatically due to eutrophication,” says Reinikainen.

The blue mussel is also an important source of nutrition for eiders.

“Regarding eiders, the situation is ambiguous, since their nutrition has decreased, but, on other hand, temperate winters would seem to improve their nesting success. The combined impact of these factors still remains partially unclear.”

The Zoological Station of the University of Helsinki is a research station based in Hankoniemi. Annually, approximately 250 researchers work at the station. The main research themes include the ecosystems of the Baltic Sea and the archipelago.

Text: Kirsikka Mattila

Photo: Mikko Arvinen

10.6.2009

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