, Volume 150, Issue 4, pp 655–667 | Cite as

An indoor mesocosm system to study the effect of climate change on the late winter and spring succession of Baltic Sea phyto- and zooplankton

  • Ulrich SommerEmail author
  • Nicole Aberle
  • Anja Engel
  • Thomas Hansen
  • Kathrin Lengfellner
  • Marcel Sandow
  • Julia Wohlers
  • Eckart Zöllner
  • Ulf Riebesell
Global Change and Conversation Ecology


An indoor mesocosm system was set up to study the response of phytoplankton and zooplankton spring succession to winter and spring warming of sea surface temperatures. The experimental temperature regimes consisted of the decadal average of the Kiel Bight, Baltic Sea, and three elevated regimes with 2°C, 4°C, and 6°C temperature difference from that at baseline. While the peak of the phytoplankton spring bloom was accelerated only weakly by increasing temperatures (1.4 days per degree Celsius), the subsequent biomass minimum of phytoplankton was accelerated more strongly (4.25 days per degree Celsius). Phytoplankton size structure showed a pronounced response to warming, with large phytoplankton being more dominant in the cooler mesocosms. The first seasonal ciliate peak was accelerated by 2.1 days per degree Celsius and the second one by 2.0 days per degree Celsius. The over-wintering copepod populations declined faster in the warmer mesocosm, and the appearance of nauplii was strongly accelerated by temperature (9.2 days per degree Celsius). The strong difference between the acceleration of the phytoplankton peak and the acceleration of the nauplii could be one of the “Achilles heels” of pelagic systems subject to climate change, because nauplii are the most starvation-sensitive life cycle stage of copepods and the most important food item of first-feeding fish larvae.


Plankton Climate change Seasonal succession Spring bloom 



This work was supported by the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) within the priority program 1162 “AQUASHIFT” (The impact of climate variability on aquatic ecosystems). Constructive comments by Herwig Stibor and one anonymous reviewer are gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ulrich Sommer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nicole Aberle
    • 1
  • Anja Engel
    • 2
  • Thomas Hansen
    • 1
  • Kathrin Lengfellner
    • 1
  • Marcel Sandow
    • 1
  • Julia Wohlers
    • 1
  • Eckart Zöllner
    • 1
  • Ulf Riebesell
    • 1
  1. 1.Leibniz Institute for Marine SciencesKiel UniversityKielGermany
  2. 2.Alfred Wegener InstituteBremerhavenGermany

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