Ecology and evolution in trophic interactions in changing boreal forest habitats

Project description

Strategic research project of the University of Oulu
Focus institute: Kvantum
Faculty: Science

The project focuses on temporal variation in seasonality and consequent changes in the selection regime within a boreal forest food chain. We study the following tri-trophic system: (1) the birch and (2) associated folivorous insects, (3) insectivorous birds (Willow tit, Crested tit, Siberian tit, Great tit, Blue tit and Pied flycatcher). We aim at revealing the roles of phenotypic plasticity within and between generations as well as indirect genetic effects on the adaptation of wild animal populations to changing environment. We utilize the unique long-term data of individually marked birds and extensive life-history data on moths. In addition, we have access to the nationwide data on weather parameters that define the seasonality, phenology and abundance of nocturnal moths and leaf succession of deciduous trees. In research, we apply experimentation, state-of-the-art quantitative genetics and metabarcoding. We quantify both selection agents that act on phenotypes and evolutionary potential in life history traits. These are used to produce predictions of evolutionary trajectories for traits affecting adaptation within a trophic level, and its implications for trophic interactions that define ecosystem function. The results are applicable to assess the effects of anthropogenic environmental change, such as climate warming in the boreal region on wild animal populations and ecosystems.

Key words: climate change, boreal food chain, adaptation, additive genetic variance, indirect genetic effects, phenotypic plasticity, long-term data, experimentation, thermal sensitivity, quantitative genetics, metabarcoding, birch, folivorous moths, birds

Project coordinator

University of Oulu


Seppo Rytkönen

Seppo Rytkönen

University teacher