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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-136
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-136
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  30 Apr 2020

30 Apr 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Unique role of jellyfish in the plankton ecosystem revealed using a global ocean biogeochemical model

Rebecca Mary Wright1,2, Corinne Le Quéré1, Erik Buitenhuis1, Sophie Pitois2, and Mark Gibbons3 Rebecca Mary Wright et al.
  • 1Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, NR4 7TJ, Norwich, UK
  • 2Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science Pakefield Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk NR33 0HT, UK
  • 3Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, University of the Western Cape, Private Bag X17, Bellville 7535, RSA

Abstract. Jellyfish are increasingly recognised as important components of the marine ecosystem, yet their specific role is poorly defined compared to that of other zooplankton groups. This paper presents the first global ocean biogeochemical model that includes an explicit representation of jellyfish, and uses the model to gain insight into the influence of jellyfish on the plankton community. The PlankTOM11 model groups organisms into Plankton Functional Types (PFT). The jellyfish PFT is parameterised here based on our synthesis of observations on jellyfish growth, grazing, respiration and mortality rates as functions of temperature and on jellyfish biomass. The distribution of jellyfish is unique compared to that of other PFTs in the model. The jellyfish global biomass of 0.13 PgC is within the observational range, and comparable to the biomass of other zooplankton and phytoplankton PFTs. The introduction of jellyfish in the model has a large direct influence on the crustacean macrozooplankton PFT, and influences indirectly the rest of the plankton ecosystem through trophic cascades. The zooplankton community in PlankTOM11 is highly sensitive to the jellyfish mortality rate, with jellyfish increasingly dominating the zooplankton community as its mortality diminishes. Overall the results suggest that jellyfish play an important and unique role in regulating marine plankton ecosystems, which has been neglected so far. 

Rebecca Mary Wright et al.

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Rebecca Mary Wright et al.

Rebecca Mary Wright et al.

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Short summary
Jellyfish have been included in a global ocean biogeochemical model for the first time. The replication of global mean jellyfish biomass is within the observational range. Jellyfish exert control over the other zooplankton, with the greatest influence on macrozooplankton, and though trophic cascades influence the phytoplankton. The model raises questions about the sensitivity of the zooplankton community to jellyfish mortality and the interactions between macrozooplankton and jellyfish.
Jellyfish have been included in a global ocean biogeochemical model for the first time. The...
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