Populations are often spatially separated with a limited exchange of individuals between sites. This holds particularly for aquatic populations in lakes, living on “aquatic islands” within a sea of land. An example of extreme isolation are very acidic and rare mining lakes. As a result of spatial separation (isolation), local adaptation of populations is favored. However, even plankton organisms have the potential to disperse over longer distances either as active stages through water birds or as resting stages by wind dispersal. Such longer-distance dispersal enhances the gene exchange between distant populations. Although some of the dispersal routes are well-known, there is a large gap in the knowledge of the quantification of the dispersal. The aim is to understand the mechanisms behind zooplankton dispersal on a landscape scale.
We study the distribution of plankton organisms (rotifers and cladocerans) and their genotypes on a local (county) and regional (European) scale. On the local scale, we investigate a set of kettle holes (small ponds) in an agricultural landscape, where we investigate the dispersal, local adaptation and genetic structure of the populations (see also BioMove). On the regional scale, we study the phylogeography and ecology of rotifers with the aim to assign certain genotypes to their respective habitat. To achieve this goal, we will apply quantitative genetics and genomics (see also the Research Focus Functional Ecology and Evolution). Under extreme environmental conditions we investigate local adaptation, life at niche edges and behavioral responses to pH values below 3.
The work is funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG) within the Research Training School BioMove and by the University of Potsdam