Bonus Projects

Baltic Diversity Notes - BONUS BIO-C3

Bringing you updates on Baltic Sea biodiversity from the BIO-C3 project and thoughts on life as a young researcher
13.11.2014 10:19

Biodiversity – what is it, why care and how to experience it?

Anna Törnroos

Yesterday a huge step for humankind was taken with the Rosetta-project, and as a scientist this feels great and exciting! However, I find it amazing that we know more about the surface of Mars than our own oceans and seas! So here are some thoughts for the biodiversity of our own planet.

“The variety of life at every hierarchical level and spatial scale of biological organisations: genes within populations, populations within species, species within communities, communities within landscapes, landscapes within biomes, and biomes within the biosphere.” 

– E.O. Wilson 1998


The citation above is the first recorded definition of biological diversity (or biodiversity) and it is actually the one I like the most, it’s clear and straightforward and was put forward by Professor Edward Osborne Wilson in 1998.


What it tells us is that we can choose to look at biodiversity in many different ways, which is exactly what we also do in the BIO-C3 project ( Our aim is to study the biodiversity below the Baltic Sea surface all the way from genes to ecosystems. As a first glimpse into this, I thought I´d share some pictures on the variety of environments or habitats in the Baltic Sea that I have experienced in my research, throughout my studies and during many summer jobs. *


For example, the fascinating habitats in the northernmost parts of the Baltic Sea (Bothnian Bay and the Finnish Archipelago), where water mosses (which you “normally” find in freshwater environments) are actually growing side-by side with other aquatic plants and algae…


Common water moss (Fontinalis antipyretica) in the Quark Archipelago (Bothnian Bay). © Wildlife and Parks Finland

...Or harder substrates like Blue mussel reefs, which at this time of the year almost look like a quilt with bright red spots of red algae. 

Blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) and red algae © Wildlife and Parks Finland

…to the southernmost parts in the Danish Waters where you can encounter large meadows of seagrass that are home to a huge variety of animals.

Seagrass meadow (Eelgrass: Zostera marina) in Danish waters (Ebeltoft). © Tiina Salo


But why should we care?

We humans are extremely efficient at changing not only nature on land but also life in the sea. This has resulted in a drastic loss of species and degradation in the environments they live in. And this variety of organisms perform and uphold functions that make the ecosystem work (production, nutrient cycling etc.), which in turn relates to our well being (we obtain food, water to drink etc.). So, losing biodiversity means we may lose something that we are dependent on now and in the future.


You may also check out one of my favorite TED talks by Dr. Silvia Earl, a National Geographic explorer and the receiver of the 2014 Glamour Women of the Year Lifetime Achievement award.  (


How to experience your local marine biodiversity?

Going out and having a look at what´s below the surface is something that I recommend all of us to do at some point, whether it is only taking a quick peak when you are swimming or actually snorkeling or diving. Or, at this time of the year when the water isn´t that warm anymore, having a look at what´s been washed ashore on the beach.


Another good idea is visiting an aquarium. This, I might add, is a particularly great idea for all of you with children and holidays coming up (or like me who just volunteered for baby sitting…). If you are a student or perhaps teacher/lecturer needing a bit of motivation, I also warmly recommend spending some hours at an aquarium. I did this once with my students in a functional ecology course and it really inspired all of us. The great thing about aquariums is that you can find them in almost all big cities nowadays, and many of them have a bit of the local ecosystem and species represented.


So now people, go out and experience and appreciate your local marine biodiversity!

I´m at least heading out to visit our nearest beach and then on to Den Blå Planet – the Danish National Aquarium in Copenhagen! 

Until next week,




*A tip to you as an undergrad or graduate student: do go for a summer job where you get to see and hands-on participate in the research, monitoring or conservation in the field! I know it usually do not pay very well, and you might think you do not know enough, but in the long run it will pay off as something extra on your CV, and it will definitely boost your motivation and confidence, I´m living proof of it! Ask around for opportunities and ideas on whom to contact at the department and with the PhD students or postdocs. Start already in January as many of the ideas and jobs are discussed already then). 

Return to headlines | 2 Comments | Comment

13.11.2014 13:15
What is "diversity"?!
Nice blog, nice pictures (what's that thing in the Zostera-meadow that isn't Zostera…?!). Biodiversity is a tricky thing if we go with "everything from molecules to the biosphere" - what are the real challenges for science within this field?
28.11.2014 09:21
Sediment Sam
Very nice blog Anna and great pictures showing the beauty of the Baltic Sea! You have one more follower with me. I am looking forward to more.

@ Anna and EB, might that be a Metridium (senile?) in the Zostera meadow? But directly on the sediment, without any hard substratum?