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Aquatic Biogeochemistry and Ecosystem Functioning Reseach Group

Research areas:

Aquatic biogeochemistry and ecosystem functioning group using traditional biogeochemistry (process measurements) with a state of art (analytical, experimental and remote sensing) and functional genomics methods at both the organism and the ecosystem level seeks to fill the existing gaps of knowledge in nutrient and gasses cycling in inland, transitional and coastal waters at pelagic and benthic zones. This is attributed to the complex relationships among changes of biotic (from micro- and macro-organisms) and abiotic factors (nutrients, temperature, hydrodynamic and etc.) along geographical and eutrophication gradients.

Major topics:

  • Pressures and impacts to aquatic ecosystems – assessment of aquatic ecosystem response to the pressures and impacts governed by human activities and changing climate conditions. The assessment implies different scale approaches from micro (intact core incubations) to whole system (remote sensing).
  • Aquatic ecosystem functioning – systematic analysis of aquatic ecosystem functioning along gradients (salinity, organic and nutrient availability, biodiversity).
  • Aquatic biogeochemical cycles – analysis of cycling of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, silica, oxygen, iron, manganese and sulphur in aquatic systems from freshwater to marine.
  • Nutrient load and mass balance – holistic analysis of nutrient transport from watersheds to the coastal sites, mass balance calculations by applying LOICZ and black-box approaches.
  • Ecosystem primary production – assessment and contribution of benthic and pelagic primary producers to the ecosystem metabolism and functions.
  • Microbe hosts – distribution, diversity, plasticity and functional role of bacteria associated with benthic invertebrate hosts in estuarine zones along a geographical gradient and a eutrophication gradient.


Dr. Jolita Petkuvienė (Group coordinator, researcher)

  • Water quality assessment;
  • Phosphorus biogeochemical cycling in terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments;
  • Application of phosphorus extraction techniques for different matrices such as suspended matter, sediments and biological samples;
  • Application of spectrophotometric and IC techniques.

Dr. Marco Bartoli (principle researcher)

  • Biogeochemical cycling of C, N, P, Si and O mediated by macrofauna and plants in aquatic systems;
  • Nutrient and gas transport across the sediment–water–atmosphere system;
  • The role of primary production in aquatic ecosystem functioning;
  • Ecological nutrient stoichiometry in aquatic ecosystems;
  • Land generated nutrient transport and fate in downstream ecosystems;
  • Development of analytical techniques to study pathways of benthic nitrogen.

Dr. Mindaugas Žilius (senior researcher)

  • Oxygen dynamic in shallow lagoons implying factors that drives hypoxia and control NEM;
  • Nutrient and gas transport across the sediment–water–atmosphere system;
  • Pelagic and benthic N transformations and their genetic potential;
  • Benthic N cycling pathways in the presence of animal-bacterial associations;
  • The role of host microbe in the benthic ecosystems functioning;
  • Development of experimental systems to study nitrogen cycling in different ecosystem compartments.

Dr. Diana Vaičiūtė (senior researcher)

  • Remote sensing-based upscaling of ecological processes;
  • Dissolved organic matter (particularly CDOM) transport and cycling;
  • Phytoplankton ecology and functioning;
  • Pigment analysis.

Dr. Tomas Ruginis (researcher)

  • Taxonomy of freshwater invertebrate;
  • The effect of invertebrate in sediment biogeochemistry.

Dr. Ričardas Taraškevičius (principle researcher)

  • The development and adaptation of analytical methods for quantitative detection of a wide spectrum of chemical elements (from Na to U) to geochemistry and biogeochemistry, focusing attention on X-ray fluorescence spectrometry.
  • Quality control and improvement of elemental analysis, international exchange of laboratory analysis results, inter-elemental relationships of multi-elemental data and speciation of elements.
  • Geochemical and biogeochemical mapping of abiotic and biotic environment, multivariate mathematical statistical treatment and inter-elemental impact in detected anomalies on biota and healthiness.
  • The application X-ray fluorescence spectrometry for needs of archaeological-geochemical investigation.

Dr. Sergej Suzdalev

  • Analysis of the fundamental sedimentary and geochemical processes in transitional aquatic systems;
  • Peculiarities of chemical elements/hazardous substances distribution, assessment of pollution processes and their control factors in different environmental matrixes;
  • Analysis of maritime sector activities development and their impact on the marine environment.

Dr. Gianmarco Giordani (principle researcher)

  • Nutrient mass balances estimations by LOICZ (Land-Ocean Interaction in Coastal Zone) modelling;
  • Development of ecological indicators;
  • Phosphorus, metals (Fe and Mn) and sulphur cycling in freshwater and estuarine sediments.

Dr. Irma Vybernaitė-Lubienė (senior researcher)

  • Nutrient transport from watersheds to the coastal sites;
  • Nutrient mass balances estimations by LOICZ (Land-Ocean Intereaction in Coastal Zone) and black-box modelling;
  • Application of spectrophotometric, GC, HPLC and ICP-MS techniques;
  • Development of new analytical methods.

Dr. Sara Benelli

  • Biogeochemical cycling of nutrients (N, P, Si) and gasses (O2, N2, CH4) mediated by macrofauna and plants;
  • Application of planar optode technique.

PhD student Tobia Politi

  • The role of benthic biodiversity in biogeochemical processes and ecosystems functioning;
  • The relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functions across geographical gradient.

PhD student Marta Lauro

  • Biogeochemical cycling of iron and magnesium forms;
  • Application of sedimentary iron and magnesium extraction techniques;
  • Methane gas biogeochemical cycling.

Ieva Gečaitė

  • working on the effect of cormorant and swan faeces on phytoplankton dynamic and water chemistry.

Ongoing projects

PatCHYPhosphorus as driver of Cyanobacterial HYperblooms in the Curonian Lagoon (Coordinator: Prof. dr. Marcro Bartoli)

NitFix The role of atmospheric nitrogen fixation in the largest eutroficated European lagoon (Coordinator: Dr. Mindaugas Žilius)

INBALANCE Invertebrate-Bacterial associations as hotspots of benthic nitrogen cycling in estuarine ecosystems (Coordinator: Dr. Mindaugas Žilius)