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Hallfors H.,University of Helsinki | Backer H.,HELCOM Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission Secretariat | Leppanen J.-M.,Finnish Environment Institute | Hallfors S.,Finnish Environment Institute | And 2 more authors.
Hydrobiologia | Year: 2013

Despite over 100 years of phytoplankton research in the Baltic Sea, little is known about how the species composition has changed during this period, characterised by severe anthropogenic eutrophication. We investigated the phytoplankton communities in the northern Baltic Sea using data from 1903 to 1911 and 1993 to 2005; to minimise effects of methodological differences we focused on occurrence frequencies. We found that the historical and modern communities differed regarding both species composition and the relative importance of taxonomical groups. The most obvious differences were the increase of dinoflagellates and decrease in the diatom to dinoflagellate ratio in all seasons. Contrary to the widely held view that cyanophytes have gained significance, our results indicate that in terms of occurrence the group has not increased in summer, and has lost ground in both spring and autumn. Several shifts in the occurrence frequency and seasonality of individual taxa transpired. Examining our results in relation to environmental conditions we found that some changes may be symptomatic of climate change related pressures. However, statistical analyses revealed that an undefined 'period effect' was the most important factor separating the historical and modern phytoplankton communities. We interpret this 'period effect' as evidence for the direct and/or indirect influence of eutrophication. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

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