Biodiversity of foliose monostromatic green algae in the Baltic Sea

Collaborative research project among the University of Gothenburg and the University of Helsinki funded by the British Phycological Society

We are very happy that the British Phycological Society supports a research project among the University of Helsinki and the University of Gothenburg, which aims to investigate the molecular identity and systematics of monostromatic green algae in the Baltic Sea. Together with my collaboration partners, Dr. Jaanika Blomster and Niko Johansson, we apply a combination of morphological and molecular methods to reveal the identity of different monostromatic green algae species in the Baltic Sea region, which are until now widely understudied.

However, green algae of the orders Ulvales and Ulotrichales are main components of the benthic flora of the Baltic Sea region and several species encompass a high tolerance towards abiotic factors. This tolerance imparts them advantages in the brackish Baltic Sea, that underlies strongly diurnal and annual fluctuations in abiotic factors. The identification of some green macroalgal genera is however notoriously difficult due to their morphological instability.

Monostromatic green algae are generally poorly known in the Baltic Sea region and molecular investigations on their taxonomy, and thus systematic studies are widely lacking. The cosmopolitan Monostroma grevillei (Thuret) Wittrock and a proposed endemic species, Monostroma balticum Wittrock were previously reported to occur in the Baltic Sea.

Until date, no molecular evidence exists of M. balticum, and the morphological characteristics distinguishing this species from M. grevillei and similar species are dubious at least. By applying museomics we aim to verify the identity of the taxon Monostroma – initially described by Wittrock. In a collaborative effort we aim to assess the biodiversity of foliose monostromatic green algal species of the Baltic Sea, and clarify the unclear taxonomic status of the allegedly endemic M. balticum. Therefore, we combine morphological studies with DNA barcoding and Next Generation Sequencing methods and include both, recently collected material as well as historical vouchers from the Baltic Sea area.

Stay tuned for first results coming from this great project collaboration.

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