Niche divergence in giant kelp forests (Macrocystis pirifera)

The fundamental niche of marine species can be defined by numerous environmental variables. While climate changes the ocean environment, the physiological responses of individuals may display contrasting outcomes at the population level, ranging from shifts in population, abundance and phenology, to the very extinction at local scales. In the scope of climate induced range shifts, the history of environmental change should also be considered, as organisms typically respond to new conditions based on both the physiological and behavioral adaptations acquired through the corse of their evolution. For instance, warm-acclimated individuals of the kelp Saccharina latissima seem to better cope with environmental changes. The wide existence of local ecotypes further demonstrates that populations may adapt to new environmental conditions, and if sufficient selective pressures are exerted, species may even speciate. The aim of this thesis is to develop a time series of occurrence for the kelp Macrocystis pirifera in different regions of its global range (focus on California and Tasmania). This data will allow inferring for niche divergence among different populations of kelp by modelling their relationship with the changing environment. This will be done by using a set of specific algorithms that can identify the floating canopy of kelp forests from the raw satellite imagery (Landsat Thematic Mapper). Using the R platform, the environmental data of two sites will be compiled and biomass time series will be produced. The assembly of both data sets will give information about differences of niches the algae occurs (explanatory modelling).

Promotor(s) & Supervisor: Ester Serrao, Jorge Assis

ISCED Categories

The highlighted icons, represent the fields of education (in compliance with ISCED Classification) engaged during this course/programme.

0511 - Biology", "0521 - Ecology", "0588 - Scientific modelling