Biochemical characterization of Fucoxanthin Chlorophyll a/c binding proteins in the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum
- Diatoms contribute largely to the total primary production of the ecosphere and are key players in global biogeochemical cycles. Their chloroplasts are surrounded by four membranes owing to their secondary endosymbiotic origin. Their thylakoids are arranged into three parallel bands and differentiation of thylakoid membranes into grana or stroma is not observed. The fucoxanthin chlorophyll a/c binding proteins act as the light harvesting proteins and play a role in photoprotection during excess light as well. The diatom genome encodes three different families of antenna proteins. Family I are the classical light harvesting proteins called "Lhcf". Family II are the red algae related Lhca-R1/2 proteins called "Lhcr" and family III are the photoprotective LI818 related proteins called "Lhcx".
All known Fcps have a molecular weight in the range of 17-23 kDa. They are membrane proteins and have shorter loops and termini compared to LHCs of higher plants and are therefore extremely hydrophobic. This makes the isolation of single specific Fcps using routine protein purification techniques difficult.
The purification of a specific Fcp containing complex has not been achieved so far and until this is done several questions concerning light harvesting antenna systems of diatoms cannot be answered. For e.g. Which proteins interact specifically? Are various Fcps differently pigmented? Which pigments interact with each other and how? Which proteins contribute to photosystem specific antenna systems? Can pure Fcps be reconstituted into crystals like LHCII proteins? In order to answer these questions specific Fcp containing complexes have to be purified. ...
The socio-economic importance of non-timber forest products for rural livelihoods in West African savanna ecosystems: current status and future trends
- For millennia, rural West African communities living in or adjacent of savanna ecosystems have been collecting components of local plant species (e.g. fruits, leaves, bark) in order to fulfil essential household subsistence needs (alimentation, medical care, energy demand etc.), to generate cash income and to overcome times of (financial) crisis. Thus, these non-timber forest products (NTFPs) make a considerable contribution to the well-being of local households. However, climate and land use change severely impact West African savanna ecosystems and, consequently, the safe-guarding of dependent rural livelihoods. The conversion of savanna area into cultivated land for subsistence farming owing to the ongoing population growth, as well as the progressive promotion of cash crops (e.g. cotton) is ever-increasing. As a consequence, present land-use management in West Africa has to cope with serious trade-offs. Within this decision-making NTFPs have been constantly understated due to a lack of appropriate economic figures to use within common cost-benefit analysis, and, thus, have been frequently outcompeted by seemingly more profitable land-use options. Therefore, it is crucial to provide appropriate economic data for NTFPs in order to create positive incentives for both decision-makers and NTFP beneficiaries to conserve NTFP-providing trees. The key finding of this analysis is that income from NTFPs accounts for 39 % on average of an annual total household income in Northern Benin, representing the second largest income share next to crop income and proving the respective households to be economically heavily dependent on NTFPs. Thereby, socio-economic characteristics of NTFP users tremendously shape their preferences for woody species. Particularly ethnicity has a major impact on the species used and the economic return obtained by them. Moreover, the study investigated the impacts of climate and land use change on the economic benefits derived from the three economically most important tree species in the region Vitellaria paradoxa, Parkia biglobosa and Adansonia digitata in 2050: Environmental changes will have primarily negative effects on the economic returns from all the three species. At large, the study underpins the economic relevance of NTFPs for rural communities in West African savannas and, consequently, the necessity to appropriately sustain them in order to safe-guard local livelihoods. Providing key figures on the current and future economic benefits obtained from NTFPs can augment common cost-benefit analysis, and, delivering detailed information about peoples’ use preferences for local species, this study clearly contributes to improve the basis of decision-making with reference to local land-use policies.
Climate-linked temporal and spatial patterns in the evolution of African bovidae
Tim F. Schikora
- Climate and subsequent environmental changes are regarded as one driver of species evolution. Against this background the present study investigates the evolutionary history of the mammalian family Bovidae (Cetartiodactyla, Mammalia), today the most species-rich family of large herbivores on the African continent. Temporal and spatial patterns in that group’s evolution are the focus of the present study and were investigated using methods and data deriving from multiple disciplines (palaeontology, genetics, climatology, conservation biology). The results serve as a validation of macroevolutionary hypotheses of species evolution.
A major proportion of African mammalian fossils can be assigned to that family. Due to their morphological adaptations, bovid species are highly indicative of their habitats. Hence, bovids are of great importance for paleontology. However, a strong taphonomic bias is present in the fossil record of bovids, favoring large and arid- adapted species. Molecular phylogenies of extant species and species distribution modelling combined with climate reconstructions can help to overcome these limitations.
A molecular phylogeny, based on the cytochrome b gene of 136 bovid species served as basis for analysis of temporal patterns. Divergence events were dated using the relaxed molecular clock approach. The tree was time calibrated at 30 nodes using information inferred from the fossil record. Lineage-Through-Time plots and the respective statistical analyses reveal detailed temporal patterns in the evolutionary history of tribes and groups combining arid- and humid-adapted tribes. The resulting pattern shows three distinct phases. Phase 1 (P1) is dominated by speciation events within the humid group, while the second phase (P2) is marked by a dominance of speciation within the arid group. The switch in diversification rates (BDS) from P1 to P2 is dated to 2.8 million years ago. The third phase (P3) shows low diversification rates for all groups, starting around 1.4 million year ago and culminates in a significantly reduced diversification rate for the complete family at 0.8 million years ago. Both transitions are contemporaneous with global climate changes and turnover events in fossil faunal communities.
To investigate the impact of climate changes onto the habitat availability within the last 3 million years and its putative influence on diversification rates, the species distribution modeling method was applied. For 85 African species and subspecies the climate niches were established and grouped into 5 climate-groups based on their climate preferences. For each group the available habitat for the period before and after the BDS was calculated on continental scale using reconstructed climate scenarios. To evaluate the modeled habitat distributions, regional analyses were performed in test areas surrounding well studied fossil sites (Laetoli, Olduvai, Chiwondo Beds, Lothagam, Koobi Fora, West Turkana, Swartkrans, Sterkfontain und Toros-Menalla). Habitat profiles (HP) permitted the comparison of the model based habitat reconstruction with the interpretations of classic paleontological reconstruction. The validity of the habitat modeling has been shown in particular for East African test areas. The reconstructions for the northern and southern fossil sites does not support the modeled habitats in these areas. Yet, the method of habitat- profiling may serve as suitable tool for environmental reconstruction of areas lacking sufficient paleontological material. A comparison of habitat availability before and after the BDS on continental scale identified a significant loss of habitat for humid adapted groups (7-22%) and habitat gain for arid adapted groups (19-173%). The climatically intermediate group experiences a tremendous gain of habitat (3366%). The greatest environmental change was modeled for East Africa, initiated by a progressive regional aridification.
In addition to the distribution modeling for past climate conditions, the geographical distribution was modeled for the future, i.e. for climate scenarios representing the years 2050 and 2080 under a putative climate change scenario (global surface warming). It was shown that in particular the arid groups have to expect a remarkable loss of habitat (41-76%), while a gain of available habitat can be expected for the humid adapted groups (114-577%). The climatically intermediate group suffers the strongest habitat loss (85%). Regions with locally stable climate conditions were detected and may serve as potential refugia and are already today known as Africa’s hot spots of biodiversity.
The results show a positive correlation of high diversification rates and increasing habitat availability. None of the tested speciation hypotheses taken alone explains the observations (e.g., Turnover-pulse Hypothesis, Relay Model). A major element in these hypotheses is the passive fragmentation of populations induced by unfavorable climate changes. In contrast, the Periodic Model (Grubb 1999) considers natural, periodically recurring climate changes and moreover, the active dispersal of individuals and resulting founder events. I added the effect of a superimposed directed climate trend – like the progressive aridification since the late Pliocene in Africa – which leads to a bias in the proportion and probability towards leading edge effects. This Directed Periodic Model explains the patterns found in the evolution of Bovidae.
The combination of a molecular phylogeny and species distribution modeling, together with information inferred from the fossil record, reveals remarkable temporal and spatial patterns in the evolution of bovids, and helps overcome the limitations of the fossil record. The present study highlights the importance of active dispersal and founder populations in speciation processes. A point widely unattended in speciation hypotheses. The fully dated molecular phylogeny is the most densely sampled tree for the family Bovidae to date and may serve as a framework for a connection of present and future population studies, permitting the connection of medium-scale with long- term effects induced by climate and environmental changes.
Assessing the combined effects of xenobiotics, climate change and predators on aquatic organisms in multiple stressor experiments - a case study with pyrimethanil
- The environmental impact of climate change is meanwhile not only discussed in the scientific community but also in the general public. However, little is known about the interaction between climate change and pollutants like pesticides. A combination of multiple stressors (e.g. temperature, pollutants, predators) may lead to severe alterations for organisms such as changes in time of reproduction, reproductive success and growth performance, mortality and geographic distribution. The questions if aquatic organisms tend to react more sensitive towards incidents under climate change conditions remains. Therefore, within the present thesis the aquatic ecotoxicological profile of the fungicide pyrimethanil, as an exemplarily anthropogenic used contaminant, was examined.
A large test battery of ecotoxicological standard tests and supplement bioassays with non-model species was conducted to investigate if species-specific or life stage-specific differences occur or if temperature alteration may change the impact of the fungicide. Two of the most sensitive species (Chironomus riparius and Daphnia magna) were used to investigate the acute and chronic thermal dependence of pyrimethanil effects. The results clearly depict that the ecotoxicity of pyrimethanil at optimal thermal conditions did not depend on the trophic level, but was species-specific. With regard to EC10 values the acute pyrimethanil toxicity on C. riparius increased with higher temperature (6.78 mg L-1 at 14°C and 3.06 mg L-1 at 26°C). The chronic response of D. magna to the NOEC (no observed effect concentration) of the fungicide (0.5 mg L-1) was examined in an experiment which lasted for several generations under three simulated near-natural temperature regimes (‘cold year, today’ (11 to 22.7°C), ‘warm year, today’ (14 to 25.2°C) and ‘warm year, 2080’ (16.5 to 28.1°C)). A pyrimethanil-induced mortality increase was buffered by the strongly related increase of the general reproductive capacity, while population growth was stronger influenced by temperature than by the fungicide. At a further pyrimethanil concentration (LOEC – lowest observed effect concentration: 1 mg L-1), a second generation could not be established by D. magna under all thermal regimes.
Besides daphnids, the midge C. riparius was used for a second multigeneration study. In a bifactorial test design it was tested if climate change conditions alter or affect the impact of a low fungicide concentration on life history and genetic diversity. The NOAEC/2 (half of the no observed adverse effect concentration derived from a standard toxicity test) was used as a low pyrimethanil concentration to which laboratory populations of the midges were chronically exposed under the mentioned temperature scenarios. During the 140-day-multigeneration study, survival, emergence, reproduction, population growth, and genetic diversity of C. riparius were analyzed. The results reveal that high temperatures and pyrimethanil act synergistically on life history parameters of C. riparius. In simulated present-day scenarios, a NOAEC/2 of pyrimethanil provoked only slight to moderate beneficial or adverse effects. In contrast, an exposure to a NOAEC/2 concentration of pyrimethanil at a thermal situation likely for a summer under the future expactations uncovered adverse effects on mortality and population growth rate. In addition, genetic diversity was considerably reduced by pyrimethanil in the ‘warm year, 2080’ scenario, but only slightly under current climatic conditions. The multigeneration studies under near-natural thermal conditions indicate that not only the impact of climate change, but also low concentrations of pesticides may pose a reasonable risk for aquatic invertebrates in the future. This clearly shows that thermal and multigenerational effects should be considered when appraising the ecotoxicity of pesticides and assessing their future risk for the environment.
In addition to temperature further multiple abiotic and biotic stressors alterate pollutant effects. Moreover, to better discriminate and understand the intrinsic and environmental correlates of changing aquatic ecosystems, it was experimentally unraveled how the effects of a low-dose of pyrimethanil on daphnids becomes modified by different temperatures (15°C, 20°C, 25°C) and in the presence/ absence of predator kairomones of Chaoborus flavicans larvae. The usage of a fractional multifactorial test design provided the possibility to investigate the individual growth, reproduction and population growth rate of Daphnia pulex via different exposure routes to the fungicide pyrimethanil at an environmentally relevant concentration (0.05 mg L-1) - either directly (via the water phase), indirectly (via algae food), dually (via water and food) or for multiple generations (fungicide treated source population).
The number of neonates increased with increasing temperatures. At a temperature of 25°C no significant differences between the individual treatment groups were observed although the growth was overall inhibited due to pyrimethanil. Besides, at 15 and 20°C it is obvious that daphnids which were fed with contaminated algae had the lowest reproduction and growth rate. The obtained results clearly demonstrate that multiple stress factors can modify the response of daphnids to pollutants. The exposure routes of the contaminant are of minor importance, while temperature and the presence of a predator are the dominant factors impacting the reproduction of D. pulex. It can be concluded that low concentrations of pyrimethanil may disturb the zooplankton community at suboptimal temperature conditions, but the effects will become masked if chaoborid larvae are present. Therefore it seems necessary to observe prospectively if the combination of several stress factors like pesticide exposure and suboptimal temperature may influence the life history and sensitivity of several aquatic invertebrates differently.
Besides standard test organisms it is inevitable to conduct test with aquatic invertebrate which are not yet considered regularly in ecotoxicological experiments. For example molluscs represent one of the largest phyla of macroinvertebrates with more than 100.000 species, being ecologically and economically important. Therefore, within the present study embryo, juvenile, half- and full-life cycle toxicity tests with the snail Physella acuta were performed to investigate the impact of pollutants on various life stages. Different concentrations of pyrimethanil (0.06-0.5 or 1.0 mg L-1) assessed at three temperatures (15°C, 20°C, 25°C) revealed that pyrimethanil caused concentration-dependent effects independent of temperature. Interestingly, the ecotoxicity of pyrimethanil was higher at lower temperature for the embryo hatching and F1 reproduction, but its ecotoxicity for the growth of juveniles and the F0 reproduction increased with increasing temperature. More specifically, it could have been observed that especially during the reproduction test high mortality rates occurred at the highest concentration of 1 mg L-1 at all temperatures. Due to high mortality rates no snails were available for the F1 at the highest concentrations (0.5 and 1.0 mg L-1). Compared to the F0, overall more egg masses were produced in the F1, being all fertile and no mortality occurred. For the F1-generation the strongest pyrimethanil effects were detected at 15°C. A comparison of effect concentrations between both generations showed that the F1 is more sensitive than the F0.
These results indicate that an exposure over more than one generation may give a better overview of the impact of xenobiotics. With the establishment of an embryo and reproduction test under different temperatures and various concentrations of pyrimethanil with P. acuta we could successfully show that molluscs can respond more sensitive than model organisms and that both, chemical and thermal stressor strongly influence the behaviour of the pulmonates. It can be concluded that the high susceptibility for the fungicide observed in gastropods clearly demonstrates the complexity of pesticide-temperature interactions and the challenge to draw conclusions for the ecotoxicological risk assessment of pesticides under the impact of global climate change.