Agnes Karlsson, Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry, Stockholm University
Agnes Karlsson, Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry, Stockholm University

How would you describe your project in a few sentences? 

In a changing environment it is critical to understand how populations respond to altered habitats if we are to understand anthropogenic impacts on ecosystems and recommend adequate management strategies. Amphipods are sensitive to contaminant exposure and are useful sentinels of environmental disturbances. Monoporeia affinis is included as a sentinel in the Swedish national monitoring program to monitor benthic community ecology and biological effects of contaminants. In this project we link monitoring data on lethal embryo aberrations in M. affinis from the last 20 years to other monitoring data such as phytoplankton bloom intensity and oxygen conditions. Preserved animal samples from the geographically extended program in 2012 have also been analysed for stable isotopes (which can be used to describe diet and habitat use for animals) and population genetic diversity.

What are your most important results, and for whom are they particularly useful?

Preliminary results from the long-term dataset indicate that cyanobacterial blooms support feeding and reproductive success in this ecologically important benthic species. Results from analyses of preserved samples show that embryo viability were best explained by female individual fecundity and Tajima’s D, the latter indicating whether there has been a recent population expansion from bottlenecks further back in history. This suggests density-dependent regulation of M. affinis reproductive success and supports the link between the food availability and population size.

How can it assist an ecosystem-based management of the marine environment?

Lethal embryo aberrations increase in M. affinis as a respond to chemical pollutants, which makes them useful as pollution-specific biological effect indicators with high ecological relevance. Their use as biological effect indicator has the potential to meet the challenges of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, whereby Member States are required to develop a robust set of tools for defining qualitative descriptors of Good Environmental Status, such as demonstrating that concentrations of contaminants are at levels not giving rise to pollution effects (GES Descriptor 8). However, certain embryo aberrations are known to also respond to non-contaminant stressors, such as temperature, oxygen levels and nutrition. Therefore, how environmental factors affect this relationship must be evaluated and incorporated into the indicator predictive capacity. Also, the ecosystem-based approach supported by both the ICES and the MSFD implies that interaction effects of contaminants with abiotic and biotic factors need to be taken into account. Our preliminary results are a first attempt to evaluate the importance of environmental stress on reproductive success.

Project group
Agnes ML Karlson, Brita Sundelin, Ulf Larsson, Susanna Hajdu, Lovisa Wennström, Peter Guban, Marie Löf, Linda Laikre, Elena Gorokhova (Stockholm University), Hedvig Hogfors (Aquabiota Water Research) Jan Albertsson (Umeå Marine Science Centre), Andrius Garbaras (Mass Spectrometry Unit, Vilnius), Valerio Ketmaier (University of Potsdam)