The essential scales of variability in marine ecosystems

Protection of marine environments, and prediction of their responses to changing local, regional or global forcings, require understanding of how the submerged ecosystems work. This is not an easy task.

To increase the knowledge base necessary for analyzing the causalities of marine ecosystems, tackling the hierarchical levels of variability is essential.

Aquatic systems differ from land ecosystems especially in this respect, as the resources, the basic trophic levels, their diversity, functioning, and interactions are all embedded in the constant flux of the physical environment.

Most of this escapes the human eye and experience. Moreover, generation times of basic trophic levels can be several orders of magnitude shorter than their terrestrial counterparts, especially in the free-floating planktonic realm.

Capturing the relevant variabilities from physiological and growth scales (minutes to days) to transport and seasonal scales (weeks to months and years) sets rigorous demands for an integrated research infrastructure, both in observation and experimentation.

From regional to molecular scale.
Images from top: Envisat, (c) ESA; Ilkka Lastumäki; Riku Lumiaro; Juha Flinkman; Seija Hällfors