Open Menu

Eco-evolutionary dynamics and aquatic ecosystem services

Ecosystems across the globe are experiencing rapid transformations due to human impacts and climate change, leaving troubling uncertainty about the services they provide.

Project Investigators

John Fryxell
Andreas Heyland, Robert Hanner, Teresa Crease

Project Description

Ecosystem services are a crucial component of human well-being. Ecosystems across the globe are experiencing rapid change due to human impacts and climate change, leaving troubling uncertainty about the services they provide. Understanding whether these ecosystems will continue to provide the services we rely on under changing conditions requires integrating tools from the disciplines of ecology, conservation, and evolution. The proposed research will directly test one of the largest unanswered questions: can rapid evolution restore ecosystem services compromised by human disturbance?

Project Objectives

The central project objective is to develop a model freshwater consumer-resource system. This model will help to understand how the interplay among genomics, physiology and life history responses drives the dynamics and productivity of freshwater food webs exposed to rising water temperature, nutrient loading and herbicide (glyphosate) exposure due to agricultural runoff and climate change. The project will also test whether or not Daphnia (aquatic crustaceans) will rapidly evolve in response to environmental stress due to herbicide and harmful algal bloom exposure.

Project Impacts

Anecdotal evidence suggests that some strains of native zooplankton species could potentially reduce the impact of harmful algal blooms, potentially controlling lake-level algal blooms with benefits to humans in the billions of dollars. The work will clarify the underlying physiological, demographic and ecological consequences of pesticide accumulation and harmful algal blooms on zooplankton populations. This research will provide a link between evolution and ecosystem services and has the potential to enhance the management of Canada’s freshwater resources.

Project Progress

This project is a continuation of a series of five coordinated projects to better understand the demographic response of zooplankton to a series of human stressors. The goal of the previously funded projects was to develop an ecosystem equivalent to the standard toxicology model based on identifying threshold lethal dosages of contaminants. Such an ecosystem test could be employed to systematically evaluate the ecosystem impact of sublethal environmental stresses imposed by agricultural practices and climate change.

Visit our ecosystem services research.