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Biodiversity of the Baltic postglacial ecosystems: CHANGES IN TIME AND SPACE. Vytautas Kontrimavičius Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. Pleistocene glaciations in the northern hemisphere. The gray areas represent ice shields.

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biodiversity of the baltic postglacial ecosystems changes in time and space

Biodiversity of the Baltic postglacial ecosystems:CHANGES IN TIME AND SPACE

Vytautas Kontrimavičius

Lithuanian Academy of Sciences

pleistocene glaciations in the northern hemisphere
Pleistocene glaciations in the northern hemisphere

The gray areas represent ice shields

approximate appearance of bering land bridge during late pleistocene time after rausch 1994
Approximate appearance of Bering Land Bridge during late Pleistocene time (after Rausch, 1994)

The white areas – land

The dotted areas – ice

eastern palearctic biodiversity
Eastern Palearctic Biodiversity
  • Ecosystems of the Eastern Palearctic
    • have not been covered with Pleistocene glaciations
    • therefore their biodiversity is much higher than biodiversity of the Western Palearctic (including European)ecosystems
we stern palearctic biodiversity
Western Palearctic Biodiversity
  • Postglacial ecosystems of Western Palearctic
    • are relatively species-poor
    • are formed continuously up to now due to
      • natural expansion of species ranges
      • anthropogenic transfer
baltic biodiversity
Baltic Biodiversity
  • Feature of ecosystems of the Baltic region:
    • south-western distribution limit of northern and Siberian species of Taigaand Tundra biomes
    • north-eastern distribution limit of Western-European species of deciduous forest biome

The tundra birch

(Betula nana)



(Carpinus betulus)



(Rubus chamaemorus)


(Viscum album)


Fat dormouse (Glis glis)

Mountain hare (Lepus timidus)


Pond turtle (Emys orbicularis)

Tree frog (Hylaarborea)


Coregonus lavaretus

Coregonus albula

baltic biodiversity11
Baltic Biodiversity
  • Combination of northern and southern species in ecosystems
    • increases their stability in variable seasonal climate


    • may cause large-scale changes (extinctions, migrations) in case of long-term climate change
baltic biodiversity12
Baltic Biodiversity
  • Molecular methods in ecology provided the new possibilities:
    • study of ecosystem structure
    • study of population structure within species
  • They revealed the genetic heterogeneity of populations in the Baltic region




Microtus agrestis sampling sites







Microtus agrestis

similarity of populations

baltic biodiversity20
Baltic Biodiversity
  • The listed data on the population structure of the Baltic region seem to be the only available up to now.
  • Therefore, the Baltic region of Europe remains one of the least researched in the aspect of phylogeography
baltic biodiversity21
Baltic Biodiversity
  • The latest data
    • disprove the hypothesis of Hewitt (1999) that the postglacial biota of Europe has been mainly formed by the populations of the southern refugia
    • reveal that the northern Europe, including the Baltic region, has been colonized by migration from remote eastern populations of southern Siberia

Molecular ecology

  • The questions solved by the molecular ecology:
      • Population structure
      • Genetic divergence
      • Hybrid zones
      • Speciation
      • Sibling species
      • Intraspecific systematics
  • They all are questions of biodiversity
molecular ecology
Molecular ecology
  • Most intensive research conducted during last 15 years. Publications:
      • Molecular Ecology
      • Molecular Biology and Evolution
      • Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
      • Genetics
      • Molekulyarnaya Biologiya


molecular ecology24
Molecular ecology
  • In Lithuania, there were little possibilities to conduct molecular ecology research due to economic reasons,

however, recently

molecular ecology in lithuania
Molecular ecology in Lithuania
  • a laboratory of molecular ecology has been equipped in the Institute of Ecologyof Vilnius University
  • a field material has been collected for the phylogeographic studies of
      • Protista
      • Vermes
      • Mollusca
      • Insecta
      • Aves
      • Mammalia
molecular ecology in lithuania26
Molecular ecology in Lithuania
  • The main research trends:
      • structure of populations
      • intra-specific hybrid zones
      • significance of the European and Siberian refugia in the formation of post-glacial biota of Northern Europe