, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 179–190 | Cite as

The Future of Baltic Sea Populations: Local Extinction or Evolutionary Rescue?

  • Kerstin JohannessonEmail author
  • Katarzyna Smolarz
  • Mats Grahn
  • Carl André


Environmental change challenges local and global survival of populations and species. In a species-poor environment like the Baltic Sea this is particularly critical as major ecosystem functions may be upheld by single species. A complex interplay between demographic and genetic characteristics of species and populations determines risks of local extinction, chances of re-establishment of lost populations, and tolerance to environmental changes by evolution of new adaptations. Recent studies show that Baltic populations of dominant marine species are locally adapted, have lost genetic variation and are relatively isolated. In addition, some have evolved unusually high degrees of clonality and others are representatives of endemic (unique) evolutionary lineages. We here suggest that a consequence of local adaptation, isolation and genetic endemism is an increased risk of failure in restoring extinct Baltic populations. Additionally, restricted availability of genetic variation owing to lost variation and isolation may negatively impact the potential for evolutionary rescue following environmental change.


Biocomplexity Endemic lineages Evolution of tolerance to contamination Genetic variation Marginal environment 



We are very grateful to Michael Gilek and the organizers of the conference “Coping with Uncertainty” and to two anonymous reviewers that indicated weaknesses in an earlier version. This work was in part performed at the Linnaeus Centre for Marine Evolutionary Biology ( supported by the Swedish Research Councils VR and Formas. The work was in addition funded by the Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies (to MG and KS) and by the EU BONUS programs BaltGene and RISKGOV through EC and Formas funding.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kerstin Johannesson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Katarzyna Smolarz
    • 2
  • Mats Grahn
    • 3
  • Carl André
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Marine Ecology-Tjärnö University of GothenburgStrömstadSweden
  2. 2.Centre for Baltic and East European StudiesSödertörn UniversityHuddingeSweden
  3. 3.School of Life SciencesSödertörn UniversityHuddingeSweden

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