Scientia Marina, Vol 65, No S2 (2001)

The sedimentary record of dinoflagellate cysts: looking back into the future of phytoplankton blooms


https://doi.org/10.3989/scimar.2001.65s2257

Barrie Dale
Department of Geology, University of Oslo, Norway

Abstract


Marine systems are not as well understood as terrestrial systems, and there is still a great need for more primary observations, in the tradition of the old-time naturalists, before newer methods such as molecular genetics and modeling can be fully utilized. The scientific process whereby the smaller, detailed building blocks of observation are ultimately linked towards better understanding natural systems is illustrated from my own career experience, especially with regard to the dinoflagellates and plankton blooms. Some dinoflagellates produce a fossilizable resting stage (cyst) in their life cycle, and dinoflagellate cysts have become one of the most important groups of microfossils used in geological exploration (e.g. oil and gas). This has stimulated both paleontological and biological research producing detailed building blocks of information, currently scattered throughout the respective literature. Here, I attempt to bring together the present day perspective, from biology, with the past, from paleontology, as the most comprehensive basis for future work on the group. This shows the cysts to be the critical link needed for focusing future molecular genetics studies towards a more verifiable view of evolutionary pathways, and it also suggests new integrated methods for studying past, present, and future blooms. The large, rapidly growing field of harmful algal bloom studies is producing many different building blocks, but plankton blooms as episodic phenomena are still poorly understood. This is largely due to the general lack of long-term datasets allowing identification of the changing environmental factors that permit certain species to bloom at unpredictable intervals of time. Cysts in sediments are useful environmental indicators today, e.g. reflecting aspects of climate and pollution, and provide information directly relevant to some dinoflagellate blooms. They therefore may be used for obtaining retrospective information from the sedimentary record on the history of blooms, in turn suggesting information relevant for future blooms and the way we study them.

Keywords


dinoflagellate cysts; algal blooms; eutrophication; molecular genetics; paleoceanography; transfer functions

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