In May and August 2014 the PlantFish team, aided by a small army of students and field assistant, conducted one of the largest and most comprehensive field surveys of shallow coastal bay ecosystems in the Baltic Sea.

The aim of the survey was to get a better understanding of what factors that regulate bottom vegetation and coastal fish populations, and how plants and fish in turn affect various parts of the coastal ecosystem. The field work also gave a lot of us a well-needed glimpse of the tremendous variability and diversity of shallow bay ecosystems, and gave all of us a beautiful summer in the archipelago!

Heterogeneous bays forming gradients

The survey was conducted in 201 stations spread out over 32 bays along a 400km part of the coast, from Öregrund in the north to Kalmar sound in the south. The bays were selected to have conditions that together form gradients in various factors we believe structure shallow bay ecosystems; for example, openness (how connected the bays are with outside areas) and nutrient loading.

To get a thorough overview of the ecosystem within each bay, we sampled a number of components including fish populations, benthic plants, macroalgae, invertebrate epifauna, plankton, water turbidity, nutrients in water and sediments, water temperature and salinity.

Samples, samples and even more samples…

As is often the case in ecology, the real work starts after the samples have been collected. During the dark Swedish autumn and winter months, an enormous amount of time has been spent in the lab going over all the samples and identifying the organisms we collected. This interesting but time-consuming work (which is still ongoing – puh!) has been made possible partly by funds from our generous donors. But most importantly, the work had not been possible without the help from from our hard-working MSc students, lab assistants, and research interns eager to learn Baltic Sea biology. A big thanks to all of you!

What did we find?

We have now started to analyze the data and test different hypotheses, for example how relatively important abiotic conditions and biotic interactions are for structuring the ecosystems. And we have to say – so far it looks really interesting…!

For more results, make sure to follow the PlantFish blog!

Over and out/The project leader