Life originated in the sea, and the oceans harbor the greatest phylogenetic diversity of life, which in turn drives biogeochemical cycles and ecosystem services. At the same time, marine ecosystems are increasingly exposed to multiple stressors such as warming, ocean acidification, deoxygenation, eutrophication, and species invasions. Thus far, global change research has focused on the short-term physiological and ecological consequences of anthropogenic disturbance, while the potential of populations and communities to adapt rapidly to global change has rarely been considered, a major gap for future ocean scenarios and biogeochemical models. Evidence is rapidly accumulating that eco-evolutionary feedbacks determine biotic interactions and hence the functioning of ecosystems over time scales similar to present-day anthropogenic disturbances. At the same time, the fundamental molecular genetic principles of many traits that underlie important ecosystem functions can now be analyzed in many marine species that are not genetic models, owing to rapid progress in genomic and transcriptomic techniques.
For an in-depth analysis of historical and contemporary trait evolution, two trait complexes with great expertise in Kiel were selected that are increasingly compromised by global change:
- biomineralization – the formation of mineralized shells, scales, skeletons and epidermal structures
- the diversity of life cycles and life spans