Our scientific achievements

Glaciers are alive and constitute uniqe biodiversity hotspots

Glaciers are often seen as a lifeless element of the environment, simply supplying water and nutrients to neighbouring ecosystems. This prevailing view is, however, erroneous: glaciers are the coldest biome teeming with various cold-loving life forms, and biological processes occurring on glaciers are not only of local but also of global importance. The glacier biodiversity hotspots are centred on small ponds called cryoconite holes, thriving with unique species of algae, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and even animals such as tardigrades and rotifers. Glaciers are also one of the fastest disappearing ecosystems, yet still awaiting to be well explored. If you wonder why life on glaciers – although microscopic – is extremely important, read the paper by Krzysztof Zawierucha from the Department of Animal Taxonomy and Ecology and his colleagues, recently published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Stibal, M., Bradley, J.A., Edwards, A., Hotaling, S., Zawierucha, K., Rosvold, J., Lutz, S., Cameron, K.A., Mikucki, J.A., Kohler, T.J., Šabacká, M., Anesio, A.M. 2020. Glacial ecosystems are essential to understanding biodiversity responses to glacier retreat. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 4:686–687. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-1163-0

Fig 1. Cryoconite holes – glacier diversity hotspots
Fig 2. Hansbreen, one of the best studied glaciers of Spitsbergen with respect to biology and ecology


Recombination facilitates evolution of invasive parasites

Genomic analyses reveal adaptive evolution of the fish ectoparasite, Gyrodactylus bullatarudis that is shaped by the combination of gene duplications, divergence and recombination. In a paper by Konczal et al. published in Molecular Ecology, we describe reference genome of G. bullatarudis the authors compare it with other Platyhelminthes. Results suggest that duplications in several gene families, including G-proteins and serine proteases, are important in co-evolution between Gyrodactylus and their host, Trinidadian guppies. By comparing  genomes from different populations the authors demonstrate a recent spread of the recombinant between two divergent genomes, showing that hybridization facilitates evolution of very successful parasites.

Konczal, M., Przesmycka, K. J., Mohammed, R. S., Phillips, K. P., Camara, F., Chmielewski, S., Hahn, C., Guigo, R., Cable, L., & Radwan, J. (2020).. Molecular Ecologyhttps://doi.org/10.1111/mec.15421


Evolution of extraordinary diversity of immunity genes – MHC.

Advances in the Evolutionary Understanding of MHC Polymorphism https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tig.2020.01.008

Jacek Radwan (Evolutionary Biology Group: http://evobio.home.amu.edu.pl/) and colleagues have published a paper in Trends in Genetics  in which they review evolutionary mechanisms explaining landmark features of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes, including their extreme polymorphism, and identify open questions in MHC evolution research. Open access!


Low anthropopression has a good influence on peatlands’ hydrological regime

Scientists from the Laboratory of Climate Change Ecology studied long-term environmental changes of the small Sphagnum-dominated peatland Jaczno in north-eastern Poland. The aim of the project was to reconstruct vegetation changes, hydrological changes and anthropopression over the last 1500 years. The study revealed that the location of the peatland far from settlements and the strict protection of the area over the last several hundreds of years positively influenced the ecological and hydrological state of the Jaczno bog. Even though most of the peatlands in Europe are degraded by humans because of drainage or peat extraction, finding that Jaczno bog remained wet up to present times is extraordinary at the European scale. Our findings show how important it is to protect wetlands because these ecosystems are crucial for fighting climate change.

Marcisz, K., Kołaczek, P., Gałka, M., Diaconu, A.-C., and Lamentowicz, M. (2020). Exceptional hydrological stability of a Sphagnum-dominated peatland over the late Holocene. Quaternary Science Reviews 231, 106180. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2020.106180.


Biometeorological conditions during heat waves in Poland

The observed climate change is manifested in increasingly frequent occurrence of heat waves. This has been acknowledged by Arek Tomczyk from the Department of Meteorology and Climatology with co-authors, who proved the pronounced increase of the persistent high-temperature periods in Poland since the beginning of the 21 century. Authors parametrized biometeorological conditions prevailing during heat waves. The most strenuous conditions were recorded in western and southwestern Poland, where days with strong and extreme heat stress conditions appeared the most frequently.


Tomczyk A.M., Bednorz E., Matzarakis A., 2020. Human-biometeorological conditions during heat waves in Poland. International Journal of Climatology, https://doi.org/10.1002/joc.6503

Figure 4 Frequency of occurrence of particular classes of the PET index during heat waves.
Figure 9 Maximum PET values recorded in the period from 7 to 8 and from 11 to 12 August 2015.

Reconstruction of river planform changes in loess areas

Despite turning many river courses into artificial canals, the record of the evolution of past fluvial landscapes is still preserved in the subsurface of the modern valleys. The first results describing river planform changes in loess landscape of Transdanubia (south Hungary) have been published in Global and Planetary Change. This research work reveals the history of the Kapos and Koppány Rivers during the last 14000 years, with periods of meander cutoffs in the Late Glacial, and flow discontinuation turning the river courses into wetlands during the last 4000 years. We show the identified fluvial forms and processes against a background of a conceptual model of meanders evolution in various hydrological and geological settings.

Słowik M., Dezső J., Kovác J., Gałka M., 2020, The formation of low-energy meanders in loess landscapes (Transdanubia, central Europe). Global and Planetary Change, 184, 103071https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloplacha.2019.103071