Prokaryotic microbes are principal drivers of carbon and nutrient biogeochemistry and account for a major fraction of pelagic biomass and productivity in the Baltic Sea.
Still, these organisms are neither included among the indicators of environmental status currently in use nor considered as functional entities in biogeochemical models.
This flaw has been highlighted by HELCOM and OSPAR in their work to coordinate the development of indicators and determining GES in the Baltic and North Sea areas.
The last decade has witnessed a tremendous increase in the capacity of high-throughput technologies for retrieving and processing genetic information from environmental samples; this has given mechanistic understanding of microbially driven food-web processes and how microbes are affected by environmental conditions.
Assessing ecological status with the help of microbial functions and processes
Therefore, for the first time we can now in a cost-efficient manner make integrated use of this analysis capacity for developing a conceptual and methodological framework for the assessment of ecological status of the Baltic Sea ecosystem based on information on microbial functions and processes.
Thus, BLUEPRINT will combine field studies, experiments, next-generation sequencing, bioinformatics and modeling to achieve the overarching objective: to establishing a capacity to reliably deduce Baltic Sea environmental status based on indicators reflecting the biodiversity and genetic functional profiles of microbes in seawater samples.
Read more in BONUS in Brief December 2013
More information will soon be available on the official project webpage