Does eutrophication-driven evolution change aquatic ecosystems?

Alexander, Timothy J.; Seehausen, Ole; Vonlanthen, Pascal (2017). Does eutrophication-driven evolution change aquatic ecosystems? Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society. Series B - biological sciences, 372(1712) Royal Society of London 10.1098/rstb.2016.0041

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Eutrophication increases primary production and changes the relative abundance, taxonomic composition and spatial distribution of primary producers within an aquatic ecosystem. The changes in composition and location of resources alter the distribution and flow of energy and biomass throughout the food web. Changes in productivity also alter the physico-chemical environment, which has further effects on the biota. Such ecological changes influence the direction and strength of natural and sexual selection experienced by populations. Besides altering selection, they can also erode the habitat gradients and/or behavioural mechanisms that maintain ecological separation and reproductive isolation among species. Consequently, eutrophication of lakes commonly results in reduced ecological specialization as well as genetic and phenotypic homogenization among lakes and among niches within lakes. We argue that the associated loss in functional diversity and niche differentiation may lead to decreased carrying capacity and lower resource-use efficiency by consumers. We show that in central European whitefish species radiations, the functional diversity affected by eutrophication-induced speciation reversal correlates with community-wide trophic transfer efficiency (fisheries yield per unit phosphorus). We take this as an example of how evolutionary dynamics driven by anthropogenic environmental change can have lasting effects on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. This article is part of the themed issue ‘Human influences on evolution, and the ecological and societal consequences’.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Review Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Aquatic Ecology

UniBE Contributor:

Seehausen, Ole


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology




Royal Society of London




Marcel Häsler

Date Deposited:

26 Apr 2017 10:04

Last Modified:

26 Apr 2017 10:04

Publisher DOI:


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