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Doctoral project: Microbial ecology of Baltic Sea sediments exposed to 50 years of warming

This project will study the microbiology of Baltic Sea sediments that have been exposed to 50 years of warming to aid in the understanding of future climate change. It will focus on the community compositions of microorganisms and their abilities of adapting and coping with increased temperatures.

Project information

Doctoral student
Songjun Li
Mark Dopson
Assistant supervisors
Anders Forsman, Samuel Hylander, Marcelo Ketzer
Participating organizations
Linnaeus University
May 2021 – April 2025
Ecology (Department of Biology and Environmental Science, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences)

More about the project

The project will study and compare Baltic Sea sediments to investigate how temperature influences geochemistry, ecological and evolutionary processes, biodiversity, and ecosystem functioning in aquatic systems.

In specific, reciprocal translocation experiments will be performed in the field. These experiments will include moving sediment cores between a bay that has been heated by cooling water from a nuclear power plant for 50 years, and a control bay with regular temperature. This provides a unique opportunity to generate insights about the rates of adaptation to temperature change, evaluate resilience, and inform whether responses to long term temperature changes are reversible.

There are three main hypotheses to investigate in this project:

  • Long-term increased temperature will alter the sediment microbial community compared to ‘contemporary’ control sediments. The microbial community compositions and active metabolic processes in the temperature affected and non-affected control sites will be different and the affected community will have adapted to the increased temperature.

  • Elevated temperatures will affect Baltic Sea productivity and biogeochemical cycling. Increased temperatures will catalyze abiotic and potentially raise biotic reaction rates, affecting nutrient and energy dynamics in the sediment microbial communities. This will alter production and efficiency of Baltic Sea nutrient cycles, the generation of greenhouse gases, and the frequency and severity of anoxic ‘dead zones’.

  • Changes/adaptations and responses to climate change are reversible if original conditions are restored. Understanding regime shifts are important to predict whether and how fast reversal of climate change effects will result in restoration of coastal systems to the present conditions.


This project is part of: