Measuring evolutionary adaptation of phytoplankton with local field observations

  • Brun P
  • Kiørboe T
  • Payne M
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Irwin et al. recently published a study that investigates the capacity of phytoplankton to adapt their ecological niches to changing environmental conditions (1). The authors find in a 15-y time series of field observations that phytoplankton taxa significantly change their ecological niches in line with environmental changes in irradiance, nitrate, and temperature. Irwin et al. conclude that this is evidence of evolutionary adaptation to a changing environment. Evolutionary adaptation summarizes heritable changes of physiological processes that improve the fitness of species under the novel environmental regime. In other words, it summarizes changes in their fundamental niches. Whereas, for plankton, the fundamental niche may be comparably well represented by its realized niche (2), it can only be described reliably by considering the entire spectrum of suitable conditions. However, the range of conditions in the Irwin et al. (1) study is rather narrow. Temperatures, for example, range from 22 to 28 {degrees}C.

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  • Philipp Brun

  • Thomas Kiørboe

  • Mark R. Payne

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