Marine Biology

, Volume 159, Issue 11, pp 2479–2490 | Cite as

The Baltic Sea spring phytoplankton bloom in a changing climate: an experimental approach

  • Ulrich Sommer
  • Nicole Aberle
  • Kathrin Lengfellner
  • Aleksandra Lewandowska
Original Paper


The response of the Baltic Sea spring bloom was studied in mesocosm experiments, where temperatures were elevated up to 6°C above the present-day sea surface temperature of the spring bloom season. Four of the seven experiments were carried out at different light levels (32–202 Wh m−2 at the start of the experiments) in the different experimental years. In one further experiment, the factors light and temperature were crossed, and in one experiment, the factors density of overwintering zooplankton and temperature were crossed. Overall, there was a slight temporal acceleration of the phytoplankton spring bloom, a decline of peak biomass and a decline of mean cell size with warming. The temperature influence on phytoplankton bloom timing, biomass and size structure was qualitatively highly robust across experiments. The dependence of timing, biomass, and size structure on initial conditions was tested by multiple regression analysis of the y-temperature regressions with the candidate independent variables initial light, initial phytoplankton biomass, initial microzooplankton biomass, and initial mesozooplankton (=copepod) biomass. The bloom timing predicted for mean temperatures (5.28°C) depended on light. The peak biomass showed a strong positive dependence on light and a weaker negative dependence on initial copepod density. Mean phytoplankton cell size predicted for the mean temperature responded positively to light and negatively to copepod density. The anticipated mismatch between phytoplankton supply and food demand by newly hatched copepod nauplii occurred only under the combination of low light and warm temperatures. The analysis presented here confirms earlier conclusions about temperature responses that are based on subsets of our experimental series. However, only the comprehensive analysis across all experiments highlights the importance of the factor light.


Biomass Phytoplankton Phytoplankton Biomass Spring Bloom Spring Peak 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The experiments reported here were funded via the priority program 1162 (“AQUASHIFT”) by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). Technical assistance by Thomas Hansen, Cordula Meyer and Bente Gardeler are gratefully acknowledged.


  1. Aberle N, Lengfellner K, Sommer U (2007) Spring bloom succession, grazing impact and herbivore selectivity of ciliate communities in response to winter warming. Oecologia 150:668–681CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Atkinson D, Ciotti BJ, Montagnes DJS (2003) Protist decrease in size linearly with temperature: ca. 2.5% °C. Proc R Soc Lond B 270:2605–2611CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boyce DG, Lewis MR, Worm B (2010) Global phytoplankton decline over the past century. Nature 466:591–596CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brock TD (1981) Calculating solar radiation for ecological models. Ecol Model 14:1–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cleland EE, Chuine I, Menzel A, Mooney HA, Schwartz MD (2007) Shifting plant phenology in response to global change. Trends Ecol Evol 22:357–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cushing DH (1990) Plankton production and year-class strength in fish populations—an update of the match-mismatch hypothesis. Adv Mar Biol 26:249–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Daufresne M, Lengfellner K, Sommer U (2009) Global warming benefits the small in aquatic ecosystems. Proc Natl Acad Sci 106:12788–12793CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Edwards M, Beaugrand G, Reid PC, Rowden A, Jones MB (2002) Ocean climate anomalies and the ecology of the North Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 239:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Eppley RW (1972) Temperature and phytoplankton growth in the sea. Fish Bull 70:1063–1085Google Scholar
  10. Gaedke U, Ruhenstroth-Bauer M, Wiegand I, Tirok K, Aberle N, Breithaupt P, Lengfellner K, Wohlers J, Sommer U (2010) Biotic interactions may overrule direct climate effects on spring phytoplankton dynamics. Glob Change Biol 16:1122–1136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gardner JL, Peters A, Kearney MR, Joseph L, Heinsohn R (2011) Declining body size: a third universal response to warming? Trends Ecol Evol 26:285–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gerten D, Adrian R (2001) Differences in the persistency of the North Atlantic oscillation signal among lakes. Limnol Oceanogr 46:448–455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hancke K, Glud RN (2004) Temperature effects on respiration and photosynthesis in three diatom-dominated benthic communities. Aquat Microb Ecol 37:265–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hillebrand H, Duerselen C-D, Kirschtel D, Pollingher U, Zohary T (1999) Biovolume calculation for pelagic and benthic microalgae. J Phycol 35:403–424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hoppe HG, Breithhaupt P, Walther K, Koppe R, Bleck S, Sommer U, Jürgens K (2008) Climate warming in winter affects the coupling between phytoplankton and bacteria during the spring bloom. Aquat Microb Ecol 51:105–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Huisman J, Sommeijer B (2002) Population dynamics of sinking phytoplankton in light-limited environments: simulation techniques and critical parameters. J Sea Res 48:83–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Huisman J, Thi NNP, Karl DM, Sommeijer B (2005) Reduced mixing generates oscillations and chaos in the oceanic deep chlorophyll maximum. Nature 439:322–325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ikeda T, Kanno Y, Ozaki K, Shinada A (2001) Metabolic rate of epipelagic copepods as a function of body mass and temperature. Mar Biol 139:587–596Google Scholar
  19. IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) (2007) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. UNEP and WHO. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  20. Isla A, Lengfellner K, Sommer U (2008) Physiological response of the copepod Pseudocalanus sp. in the Baltic Sea at different thermal scenarios. Glob Change Biol 14:895–906CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ivleva IV (1980) The dependence of crustacean respiration rate on body mass and habitat temperature. Int Rev Hydrobiol 65:1–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jacques G (1983) Some ecophysiological aspects of Antarctic phytoplankton. Polar Biol 2:27–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lewandowska A, Sommer U (2010) Climate change and the spring bloom: a mesocosm study on the influence of light and temperature on phytoplankton and mesozooplankton. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 405:101–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lewandowska A, Breithaupt P, Hillebrand H, Hoppe HG, Jürgens K, Sommer U (2011) Responses of primary productivity to increased temperature and phytoplankton diversity. J Sea Res. doi: 10.1016/j.seares.2011.10.003 Google Scholar
  25. Menden-Deuer S, Lessard EJ (2000) Carbon to volume relationships for dinoflagellates, diatoms, and of the protist plankton. Limnol Oceanogr 45:569–579CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Moran XA, Lopez-Urrutia A, Calvo-Diaz A, Li WKW (2010) Increasing importance of small phytoplankton in a warmer ocean. Glob Change Biol 16:1137–1144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Müren U, Berglund J, Samulesson K, Andersson A (2005) Potential effects of elevated sea-water temperature on pelagic food webs. Hydrobiologia 545:153–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. O’Connor ML, Piehler MF, Leech DM, Anton A, Bruno JF (2009) Warming and resource availability shift food web structure and metabolism. PLoS Biol 7(8):e1000178. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000178 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Prosser CL (1973) Comparative animal physiology. Saunders, LondonGoogle Scholar
  30. Putt M, Stoecker DK (1989) An experimentally determined carbon: volume ratio for marine “oligotrichous” ciliates from estuarine and coastal waters. Limnol Oceanogr 34:1097–1103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Reynolds CS (1989) Physical determinants of phytoplankton succession. In: Sommer U (ed) Plankton succession. Brock-Springer, Madison, pp 9–56Google Scholar
  32. Riley GA (1957) Phytoplankton of the North Central Sargasso Sea. Limnol Oceanogr 2:252–270Google Scholar
  33. Ruprecht E, Schröder SS, Ubl S (2002) On the relation between NAO and water vapour transport towards Europe. Meteorol Z 11:395–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sand-Jensen K, Pedersen NL, Søndergaard M (2007) Bacterial metabolism in small temperate streams under contemporary and future climates. Freshw Biol 52:2340–2353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Smetacek V (1999) Diatoms and the ocean carbon cycle. Protist 150:25–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sommer U (1996) Plankton ecology: the last two decades of progress. Naturwissenschaften 83:293–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sommer U, Lengfellner K (2008) Climate change and the timing, magnitude and composition of the phytoplankton spring bloom. Glob Change Biol 14:1199–1208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sommer U, Lewandowska A (2011) Climate change and the phytoplankton spring bloom: warming and overwintering zooplankton have similar effects on phytoplankton. Glob Change Biol 17:154–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sommer U, Sommer F (2006) Cladocerans versus copepods: the cause of contrasting top-down controls on freshwater and marine phytoplankton. Oecologia 147:183–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sommer U, Gliwicz ZM, Lampert W, Duncan A (1986) The PEG-model of seasonal succession of planktonic events in fresh waters. Arch Hydrobiol 106:433–471Google Scholar
  41. Sommer U, Aberle N, Engel A, Hansen T, Lengfellner K, Sandow M, Wohlers J, Zöllner U, Riebesell U (2007) An indoor mesocosm system to study the effect of climate change on the late winter and spring succession of Baltic Sea phyto- and zooplankton. Oecologia 150:655–667CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Stenseth NC, Mysterud A, Ottersen G, Hurrell JW, Chan KS, Lima M (2002) Ecological effects of climate fluctuations. Science 297:1292–1296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Stibor H, Vadstein O, Diehl S, Gelzleichter A, Hansen T, Hantzsche F, Katechakis A, Lippert B, Loeseth K, Peters C, Roederer W, Sandow M, Sundt-Hansen L, Olsen Y (2004) Copepods act as a switch between alternative marine food webs. Ecol Lett 7:321–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sverdrup H (1953) On conditions for the vernal blooming of phytoplankton. J Cons Explor Mer 18:287–295Google Scholar
  45. Tilstone GH, Miguez BM, Figueiras FG, Fermin EG (2000) Diatom dynamics in a coastal ecosystem affected by upwelling: coupling between species succession, circulation and biogeochemical processes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 205:23–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Tilzer MM, Elbrächter M, Gieskes W, Beese B (1986) Light-temperature interactions in the control of photosynthesis in Antarctic phytoplankton. Polar Biol 5:105–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Tirok K, Gaedke U (2007) The effect of irradiance, vertical mixing and temperature on spring phytoplankton dynamics under climate change: long-term observations and model analysis. Oecologia 150:625–642CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Visser ME, van Noordwijk AJ, Tinbergen JM, Lessells CM (1998) Warmer springs lead to mistimed reproduction in great tits (Parus major). Proc R Soc Lond Ser B 265:1867–1870CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Walther GR, Post E, Convey P et al (2002) Ecological responses to recent climate change. Nature 416:389–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wasmund N, Göbel J, von Bodungen B (2008) 100-years-changes in the phytoplankton community of Kiel Bight (Baltic Sea). J Mar Syst 73:300–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Weyhenmeyer GA (2001) Warmer winters: are planktonic populations in Sweden’s largest lake affected? Ambio 30:565–571Google Scholar
  52. Weyhenmeyer GA, Blenckner T, Pettersson K (1999) Changes of the plankton spring outburst related to the North Atlantic oscillation. Limnol Oceanogr 44:1788–1792CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wiltshire KH, Manly BFJ (2004) The warming trend at Helgoland Roads, North Sea: phytoplankton response. Helgol Mar Res 58:269–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Wiltshire KH, Malzahn AM, Wirtz K, Greve W, Janisch S, Mangelsdorf P, Manly BFJ, Boersma M (2008) Resilience of North Sea phytoplankton spring bloom dynamics: an analysis of long-term data at Helgoland Roads. Limnol Oceanogr 53:1294–1302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wohlers J, Engel A, Zöllner E, Breithaupt P, Jürgens K, Hoppe HG, Sommer U, Riebesell U (2009) Changes in biogenic carbon flow in response to sea surface warming. Proc Natl Acad Sci 106:7067–7072CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Zhang X, Zwiers FW, Hegerl GC, Lambert FH, Gillet NP, Solomon S, Stott PA, Nozawa T (2007) Detection of human influence on twentieth-century precipitation trends. Nature 448:461–465CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ulrich Sommer
    • 1
  • Nicole Aberle
    • 2
  • Kathrin Lengfellner
    • 3
  • Aleksandra Lewandowska
    • 1
  1. 1.Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research (GEOMAR) KielGermany
  2. 2.Biologische Anstalt HelgolandAlfred-Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine ResearchHelgolandGermany
  3. 3.Ecology and Environmental SciencesUniversity of UmeåUmeåSweden

Personalised recommendations