Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Baltic Sea


Few at-sea behavioural data exist for oceanic-stage neonate sea turtles, a life-stage commonly referred to as the sea turtle ‘lost years’. Historically, the long-term tracking of small, fast-growing organisms in the open ocean was logistically or technologically impossible. Here, we provide the first long-term satellite tracks of neonate sea turtles. Loggerheads (Caretta caretta) were remotely tracked in the Atlantic Ocean using small solar-powered satellite transmitters. We show that oceanic-stage turtles (i) rarely travel in Continental Shelf waters, (ii) frequently depart the currents associated with the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre, (iii) travel quickly when in Gyre currents, and (iv) select sea surface habitats that are likely to provide a thermal benefit or refuge to young sea turtles, supporting growth, foraging and survival. Our satellite tracks help define Atlantic loggerhead nursery grounds and early loggerhead habitat use, allowing us to re-examine sea turtle ‘lost years’ paradigms.

Concepts: Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Baltic Sea, Ocean, Marine debris, Sea turtle, Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Sargasso Sea


Archaeochemistry as the application of the most recent analytical techniques to ancient samples now provides an unprecedented understanding of human culture throughout history. In this paper, we report on a multiplatform analytical investigation of 170-y-old champagne bottles found in a shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, which provides insight into winemaking practices used at the time. Organic spectroscopy-based nontargeted metabolomics and metallomics give access to the detailed composition of these wines, revealing, for instance, unexpected chemical characteristics in terms of small ion, sugar, and acid contents as well as markers of barrel aging and Maillard reaction products. The distinct aroma composition of these ancient champagne samples, first revealed during tasting sessions, was later confirmed using state-of-the-art aroma analysis techniques. After 170 y of deep sea aging in close-to-perfect conditions, these sleeping champagne bottles awoke to tell us a chapter of the story of winemaking and to reveal their extraordinary archaeometabolome and elemental diversity in the form of chemical signatures related to each individual step of champagne production.

Concepts: Baltic Sea, Wine, Sea, Fermentation


Methane and nitrous oxide are potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) that contribute to climate change. Coastal sediments are important GHG producers, but the contribution of macrofauna (benthic invertebrates larger than 1 mm) inhabiting them is currently unknown. Through a combination of trace gas, isotope, and molecular analyses, we studied the direct and indirect contribution of two macrofaunal groups, polychaetes and bivalves, to methane and nitrous oxide fluxes from coastal sediments. Our results indicate that macrofauna increases benthic methane efflux by a factor of up to eight, potentially accounting for an estimated 9.5% of total emissions from the Baltic Sea. Polychaetes indirectly enhance methane efflux through bioturbation, while bivalves have a direct effect on methane release. Bivalves host archaeal methanogenic symbionts carrying out preferentially hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis, as suggested by analysis of methane isotopes. Low temperatures (8 °C) also stimulate production of nitrous oxide, which is consumed by benthic denitrifying bacteria before it reaches the water column. We show that macrofauna contributes to GHG production and that the extent is dependent on lineage. Thus, macrofauna may play an important, but overlooked role in regulating GHG production and exchange in coastal sediment ecosystems.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Bacteria, Baltic Sea, Anaerobic digestion, Natural gas, Methane, Nitrous oxide, Greenhouse gas


A general northward shift in marine species distributions has been observed in the western North Atlantic Ocean, which may have significant ecological consequences. Large coastal sharks can have wide migratory distributions but show fidelity to specific nursery habitats. Here we show evidence for nursery range expansion into Pamlico Sound, North Carolina by a marine apex predator, the Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas). Previous assessments have shown little to no use of estuarine North Carolina waters as nursery habitat by Bull Sharks from 1965-2011. Juvenile sharks were rarely captured in a fishery-independent gillnet survey conducted by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) from 2003-2011, but were present every year from 2011-2016. Juvenile Bull Shark presence in the Sound was strongly related to early summer temperatures and late summer salinities, which have increased in the estuary over the 13 survey years, and further evidence for increasing water temperatures in Pamlico Sound was found in a 45-year data set for the NCDMF estuarine trawl survey. These results suggest that increasing water temperature and salinity have allowed Bull Sharks to expand their nursery habitat. This shift will have unknown, but potentially strong, impacts on both the local ecosystem and interactions with humans.

Concepts: Water, Atlantic Ocean, Baltic Sea, Estuary, Amazon River, Shark, Bull shark, Pamlico Sound


Knowledge of the range and chronology of historic trade and long-distance transport of natural resources is essential for determining the impacts of past human activities on marine environments. However, the specific biological sources of imported fauna are often difficult to identify, in particular if species have a wide spatial distribution and lack clear osteological or isotopic differentiation between populations. Here, we report that ancient fish-bone remains, despite being porous, brittle, and light, provide an excellent source of endogenous DNA (15-46%) of sufficient quality for whole-genome reconstruction. By comparing ancient sequence data to that of modern specimens, we determine the biological origin of 15 Viking Age (800-1066 CE) and subsequent medieval (1066-1280 CE) Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) specimens from excavation sites in Germany, Norway, and the United Kingdom. Archaeological context indicates that one of these sites was a fishing settlement for the procurement of local catches, whereas the other localities were centers of trade. Fish from the trade sites show a mixed ancestry and are statistically differentiated from local fish populations. Moreover, Viking Age samples from Haithabu, Germany, are traced back to the North East Arctic Atlantic cod population that has supported the Lofoten fisheries of Norway for centuries. Our results resolve a long-standing controversial hypothesis and indicate that the marine resources of the North Atlantic Ocean were used to sustain an international demand for protein as far back as the Viking Age.

Concepts: Atlantic Ocean, United Kingdom, Baltic Sea, Europe, Canada, Cod, Norway, North Sea


While the series of events that shaped the transition between foraging societies and food producers are well described for Central and Southern Europe, genetic evidence from Northern Europe surrounding the Baltic Sea is still sparse. Here, we report genome-wide DNA data from 38 ancient North Europeans ranging from ~9500 to 2200 years before present. Our analysis provides genetic evidence that hunter-gatherers settled Scandinavia via two routes. We reveal that the first Scandinavian farmers derive their ancestry from Anatolia 1000 years earlier than previously demonstrated. The range of Mesolithic Western hunter-gatherers extended to the east of the Baltic Sea, where these populations persisted without gene-flow from Central European farmers during the Early and Middle Neolithic. The arrival of steppe pastoralists in the Late Neolithic introduced a major shift in economy and mediated the spread of a new ancestry associated with the Corded Ware Complex in Northern Europe.

Concepts: Baltic Sea, Sweden, Europe, Estonia, Denmark, Finland, Stone Age, Baltic states


Aims: This study compared the level of alcohol mortality in tsarist and contemporary Russia. Methods: Cross-sectional and annual time-series data from 1870 to 1894, 2008 and 2009 on the mortality rate from deaths due to ‘drunkenness’ were compared for men in the 50 provinces of tsarist ‘European Russia’: an area that today corresponds with the territory occupied by the Baltic countries, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine and the Russian provinces to the west of the Ural Mountains. Results: In 1870-1894, the male death rate from ‘drunkenness’ in the Russian provinces (15.9 per 100,000) was much higher than in the non-Russian provinces. However, the rate recorded in Russia in the contemporary period was even higher-23.3. Conclusions: Russia has had high levels of alcohol mortality from at least the late 19th century onwards. While a dangerous drinking pattern and spirits consumption may underpin high alcohol mortality across time, the seemingly much higher levels in the contemporary period seem to be also driven by an unprecedented level of consumption, and also possibly, surrogate alcohol use. This study highlights the urgent need to reduce the level of alcohol consumption among the population in order to reduce high levels of alcohol mortality in contemporary Russia.

Concepts: Death, Baltic Sea, Europe, Estonia, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russian language


Systematic climate shifts have been linked to multidecadal variability in observed sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic Ocean. These links are extensive, influencing a range of climate processes such as hurricane activity and African Sahel and Amazonian droughts. The variability is distinct from historical global-mean temperature changes and is commonly attributed to natural ocean oscillations. A number of studies have provided evidence that aerosols can influence long-term changes in sea surface temperatures, but climate models have so far failed to reproduce these interactions and the role of aerosols in decadal variability remains unclear. Here we use a state-of-the-art Earth system climate model to show that aerosol emissions and periods of volcanic activity explain 76 per cent of the simulated multidecadal variance in detrended 1860-2005 North Atlantic sea surface temperatures. After 1950, simulated variability is within observational estimates; our estimates for 1910-1940 capture twice the warming of previous generation models but do not explain the entire observed trend. Other processes, such as ocean circulation, may also have contributed to variability in the early twentieth century. Mechanistically, we find that inclusion of aerosol-cloud microphysical effects, which were included in few previous multimodel ensembles, dominates the magnitude (80 per cent) and the spatial pattern of the total surface aerosol forcing in the North Atlantic. Our findings suggest that anthropogenic aerosol emissions influenced a range of societally important historical climate events such as peaks in hurricane activity and Sahel drought. Decadal-scale model predictions of regional Atlantic climate will probably be improved by incorporating aerosol-cloud microphysical interactions and estimates of future concentrations of aerosols, emissions of which are directly addressable by policy actions.

Concepts: Earth, Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Baltic Sea, Ocean, Tropical cyclone, Marine debris, Global warming


Microplastic is considered a potential threat to marine life as it is ingested by a wide variety of species. Most studies on microplastic ingestion are short-term investigations and little is currently known about how this potential threat has developed over the last decades where global plastic production has increased exponentially. Here we present the first long-term study on microplastic in the marine environment, covering three decades from 1987 to 2015, based on a unique sample set originally collected and conserved for food web studies. We investigated the microplastic concentration in plankton samples and in digestive tracts of two economically and ecologically important planktivorous forage fish species, Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) and European sprat (Sprattus sprattus), in the Baltic Sea, an ecosystem which is under high anthropogenic pressure and has undergone considerable changes over the past decades. Surprisingly, neither the concentration of microplastic in the plankton samples nor in the digestive tracts changed significantly over the investigated time period. Average microplastic concentration in the plankton samples was 0.21±0.15particlesm(-3). Of 814 fish examined, 20% contained plastic particles, of which 95% were characterized as microplastic (<5mm) and of these 93% were fibres. There were no significant differences in the plastic content between species, locations, or time of day the fish were caught. However, fish size and microplastic in the digestive tracts were positively correlated, and the fish contained more plastic during summer than during spring, which may be explained by increased food uptake with size and seasonal differences in feeding activity. This study highlights that even though microplastic has been present in the Baltic environment and the digestive tracts of fishes for decades, the levels have not changed in this period. This underscores the need for greater understanding of how plastic is cycled through marine ecosystems. The stability of plastic concentration and contamination over time observed here indicates that the type and level of microplastic pollution may be more closely correlated to specific human activities in a region than to global plastic production and utilization as such.

Concepts: Time, Fish, Atlantic Ocean, Baltic Sea, Ocean, Herring, Clupeidae, Sprattus


Plastic ingestion by marine biota has been reported for a variety of different taxa. In this study, we investigated 290 gastrointestinal tracts of demersal (cod, dab and flounder) and pelagic fish species (herring and mackerel) from the North and Baltic Sea for the occurrence of plastic ingestion. In 5.5% of all investigated fishes, plastic particles were detected, with 74% of all particles being in the microplastic (<5mm) size range. The polymer types of all found particles were analysed by means of Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy. Almost 40% of the particles consisted of polyethylene (PE). In 3.4% of the demersal and 10.7% of the pelagic individuals, plastic ingestion was recorded, showing a significantly higher ingestion frequency in the pelagic feeders. The condition factor K was calculated to test differences in the fitness status between individuals with and without ingested plastic, but no direct effect was detected.

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Atlantic Ocean, Baltic Sea, Denmark, Norway, North Sea, Forage fish, Pelagic fish