Publications

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2018
McGinty, N, Barton AD, Record NR, Finkel ZV, Irwin AJ.  2018.  Traits structure copepod niches in the North Atlantic and Southern Ocean. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 601:109-126.   10.3354/meps12660   AbstractWebsite

Realised niches describe the environmental and biotic conditions that a species occupies. Among marine zooplankton, species traits, including body size, dietary mode (herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore), and diapause strategy are expected to influence the realised niche of a species. To date, realised niches are known for only a small number of copepod species. Here we quantify the realised niches of 88 copepod species measured by the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) in the North Atlantic and Southern Ocean using Maximum Entropy (MaxEnt) modelling. We estimate the univariate mean niche, niche breadth of copepods for several important environmental variables, and assess the relative effects of several key zooplankton traits on the mean niche. Sea surface temperature (SST) contributed the most information to the description of niches on average across all species, with the rank importance of the remaining variables varying between regions. In the North Atlantic SST, depth, salinity and chlorophyll niches separated omnivores and herbivores from carnivores while in the Southern Ocean niche differences across dietary modes were found for chlorophyll and wind stress only. Diapausing copepods were found to occur in colder temperatures compared with non-diapausing taxa, likely because of their capacity for accumulating lipids. A strong negative body size-niche breadth relationship was found only for diapausing copepods, suggesting that larger multi-year generation species are more reliant on a specific temperature range to successfully reach diapause. Our analysis demonstrates strong connections between copepod traits and their realised niches in natural populations.

2013
Barton, AD, Pershing AJ, Litchman E, Record NR, Edwards KF, Finkel ZV, Kiorboe T, Ward BA.  2013.  The biogeography of marine plankton traits. Ecol Lett. 16:522-34.   10.1111/ele.12063   Abstract

Changes in marine plankton communities driven by environmental variability impact the marine food web and global biogeochemical cycles of carbon and other elements. To predict and assess these community shifts and their consequences, ecologists are increasingly investigating how the functional traits of plankton determine their relative fitness along environmental and biological gradients. Laboratory, field and modelling studies are adopting this trait-based approach to map the biogeography of plankton traits that underlies variations in plankton communities. Here, we review progress towards understanding the regulatory roles of several key plankton functional traits, including cell size, N2 -fixation and mixotrophy among phytoplankton, and body size, ontogeny and feeding behaviour for zooplankton. The trait biogeographical approach sheds light on what structures plankton communities in the current ocean, as well as under climate change scenarios, and also allows for finer resolution of community function because community trait composition determines the rates of significant processes, including carbon export. Although understanding of trait biogeography is growing, uncertainties remain that stem, in part, from the paucity of observations describing plankton functional traits. Thus, in addition to recommending widespread adoption of the trait-based approach, we advocate for enhanced collection, standardisation and dissemination of plankton functional trait data.