Skip to main content

Sea of opportunities: marine genomics in an era of global environmental change


Overexploitation of natural resources and pollution of seas, acidification of the ocean, and rising temperatures all contribute to the destruction of marine habitats and, in 2015, the protection of the ocean became one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 14: Life Below Water). This collection aims to highlight the molecular genetic changes currently happening in marine organisms.

Peer Review reports

Main text

Although the exact place of the origin of life on Earth is still debatable [1], the submarine hydrothermal vents of the ancient ocean could be the cradle of organic life or the earliest known habitable environments for primitive organisms. Indeed, water is a necessary substrate for life on Earth and for billions of years, the ocean has remained an excellent habitat for many life forms, allowing them to reproduce and evolve. However, the safety of this habitat is now threatened by pollution and global warming, and our planet is facing a global extinction of species, threatening all life on Earth [2].

The ocean and its inhabitants are among the first to face the effects of anthropogenic activities and water pollution and overexploitation of natural resources are just the tip of the iceberg as many other causes and consequences are leading to the destruction of ocean ecosystems (Fig. 1). Moreover, this destruction affects the integrity of the planet as a whole, as the ocean plays a vital role in the carbon cycle and produces about half of Earth’s oxygen [3].

Fig. 1
figure 1

Schematic representation of the iceberg of causes and consequences leading to the destruction of ocean ecosystems

Given the importance of the ocean, studies on the impact of climate change on marine organisms and ecosystems are of particular importance. Some habitat changes are fatal to species and lead to their extinction but thankfully not always. Although recent studies have shown that marine ecosystems are more sensitive to environmental changes than terrestrial ones [4], the species that inhabit the ocean also have an adaptive potential and, indeed, have significant possibilities for migration and shift of distribution toward new and more acceptable environments [5] as well as the potential to change their lifecycle (e.g. time of spawning or sporulation) [6, 7].

Recent studies that have focused on comparative analysis of genomic, transcriptomic, and epigenomic mechanisms in marine organisms show that they can adapt to changes in salinity, acidity and temperature of water [8,9,10,11]. At the same time, significant environmental changes might lead to species distribution shifts and thus enabling new interactions between marine species after millions of years of isolation and divergence. These shifts and possible interspecific hybridization between distant relatives may also have adaptive potential in a changing environment [12, 13]. Novel genotypes occurring as a result of interspecific hybridization are usually not adaptive in normal environments and they dissolve in the gene pool of species without bringing a significant effect to global populations [13]. At the same time, during rapid and catastrophic environmental changes, these hybrid offspring can gain an advantage over parental forms/species, demonstrating the previously overlooked importance of interspecific hybridization.

To conclude, human-made environmental changes and ecosystem destruction have a substantial effect on Earth’s climate and there are serious concerns about the future of marine biodiversity. However, the silver lining is that these global environmental changes provide exciting opportunities to understand the origin and the evolution of marine life and highlight potentially useful strategies for further research and action on SDG 14 Live Below Water and other sustainable environmental programs.

With this collection we hope to attract breakthrough and original research papers describing the application of the modern methods for phylogenetic analyses, as well as speciation and molecular evolution studies of marine species in changing environments. Additionally, experimental studies that exhibit the significance of differential gene expression and epigenetic factors in adaptation to changing environments, and research that characterizes the role of alternative splicing and interspecific hybridization, and its potential for adaptation are encouraged. The aim of this Collection is to advance SDG 14: Live Below Water, which is centered on the conservation of the ocean and its natural resources.

We believe that the energy and commitment of early-career researchers (marine biologists, marine ecologists, evolutionary biologists, and all interested researchers) multiplied by the experience of their mentors, as well as the use of the latest methods of molecular genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics tools will allow researchers to find new insights and solutions to the current ocean situation.

Data availability

Not applicable.


  1. Dodd MS, Papineau D, Grenne T, Slack JF, Rittner M, Pirajno F, O’Neil J, Little CT. Evidence for early life in Earth’s oldest hydrothermal vent precipitates. Nature. 2017;543(7643):60–4.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Brondizio ES, Settele J, Díaz S, Ngo HT, editors. IPBES (2019): global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Bonn: IPBES secretariat; 2019.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Johnson KS, Bif MB. Constraint on net primary productivity of the global ocean by Argo oxygen measurements. Nat Geosci. 2021;14(10):769–74.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Antao LH, Bates AE, Blowes SA, Waldock C, Supp SR, Magurran AE, Dornelas M, Schipper AM. Temperature-related biodiversity change across temperate marine and terrestrial systems. Nat Ecol Evol. 2020;4(7):927–33.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Chaudhary C, Richardson AJ, Schoeman DS, Costello MJ. Global warming is causing a more pronounced dip in marine species richness around the equator. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2021;118(15):e2015094118.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  6. de Bettignies T, Wernberg T, Gurgel CFD. Exploring the influence of temperature on aspects of the Reproductive phenology of Temperate Seaweeds. Front Mar Sci 2018, 5.

  7. Servili A, Canario AVM, Mouchel O, Muñoz-Cueto JA. Climate change impacts on fish reproduction are mediated at multiple levels of the brain-pituitary-gonad axis. Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2020;291:113439.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Duarte B, Martins I, Rosa R, Matos AR, Roleda MY, Reusch TBH, Engelen AH, Serrão EA, Pearson GA, Marques JC et al. Climate Change Impacts on Seagrass Meadows and Macroalgal forests: an integrative perspective on acclimation and adaptation potential. Front Mar Sci 2018, 5.

  9. Lee YH, Kim M-S, Wang M, Bhandari RK, Park HG, Wu RS-S, Lee J-S. Epigenetic plasticity enables copepods to cope with ocean acidification. Nat Clim Change. 2022;12(10):918–27.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Rastorguev SM, Nedoluzhko AV, Gruzdeva NM, Boulygina ES, Sharko FS, Ibragimova AS, Tsygankova SV, Artemov AV, Skryabin KG, Prokhortchouk EB. Differential miRNA expression in the three-spined stickleback, response to environmental changes. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):18089.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  11. Bitter MC, Kapsenberg L, Gattuso JP, Pfister CA. Standing genetic variation fuels rapid adaptation to ocean acidification. Nat Commun. 2019;10(1):5821.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  12. Brauer CJ, Sandoval-Castillo J, Gates K, Hammer MP, Unmack PJ, Bernatchez L, Beheregaray LB. Natural hybridization reduces vulnerability to climate change. Nat Clim Change 2023.

  13. Nedoluzhko A, Sharko F, Tsygankova S, Boulygina E, Slobodova N, Teslyuk A, Galindo-Villegas J, Rastorguev S. Intergeneric hybridization of two stickleback species leads to introgression of membrane-associated genes and invasive TE expansion. Front Genet. 2022;13:863547.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

Download references


The author is grateful to Professor Jorge Galindo-Villegas (Nord University, Norway) and Azumi Aki for their ongoing intellectual and emotional support.


Not applicable.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



A.N. prepared figure, wrote and edited the Editorial manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Artem Nedoluzhko.

Ethics declarations

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Not applicable.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Competing interests

Artem Nedoluzhko is a Guest Editor of First dive into marine genomics Collection and Academic Editor for BMC Genomics.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Nedoluzhko, A. Sea of opportunities: marine genomics in an era of global environmental change. BMC Genomics 24, 286 (2023).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI: