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Stukel, MR, Aluwihare LI, Barbeau KA, Chekalyuk AM, Goericke R, Miller AJ, Ohman MD, Ruacho A, Song H, Stephens BM, Landry MR.  2017.  Mesoscale ocean fronts enhance carbon export due to gravitational sinking and subduction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 114:1252-1257.   10.1073/pnas.1609435114   AbstractWebsite

Enhanced vertical carbon transport (gravitational sinking and subduction) at mesoscale ocean fronts may explain the demonstrated imbalance of new production and sinking particle export in coastal upwelling ecosystems. Based on flux assessments from U-238:Th-234 disequilibrium and sediment traps, we found 2 to 3 times higher rates of gravitational particle export near a deep-water front (305 mg C.m(-2).d(-1)) compared with adjacent water or to mean (nonfrontal) regional conditions. Elevated particle flux at the front wasmechanistically linked to Fe-stressed diatoms and high-mesozooplankton fecal pellet production. Using a data assimilative regional ocean model fit to measured conditions, we estimate that an additional similar to 225 mg C.m(-2).d(-1) was exported as subduction of particle-rich water at the front, highlighting a transport mechanism that is not captured by sediment traps and is poorly quantified by most models and in situ measurements. Mesoscale fronts may be responsible for over a quarter of total organic carbon sequestration in the California Current and other coastal upwelling ecosystems.

Brandon, J, Goldstein M, Ohman MD.  2016.  Long-term aging and degradation of microplastic particles: Comparing in situ oceanic and experimental weathering patterns. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 110:299-308.   10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.06.048   AbstractWebsite

Polypropylene, low-density polyethylene, and high-density polyethylene pre-production plastic pellets were weathered for three years in three experimental treatments: dry/sunlight, seawater/sunlight, and seawater/darkness. Changes in chemical bond structures (hydroxyl, carbonyl groups and carbon-oxygen) with weathering were measured via Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. These indices from experimentally weathered particles were compared to microplastic particles collected from oceanic surface waters in the California Current, the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, and the transition region between the two, in order to estimate the exposure time of the oceanic plastics. Although chemical bonds exhibited some nonlinear changes with environmental exposure, they can potentially approximate the weathering time of some plastics, especially high-density polyethylene. The majority of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre polyethylene particles we measured have inferred exposure times > 18 months, with some >30 months. Inferred particle weathering times are consistent with ocean circulation models suggesting a long residence time in the open ocean. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Ohman, MD, Romagnan JB.  2016.  Nonlinear effects of body size and optical attenuation on Diel Vertical Migration by zooplankton. Limnology and Oceanography. 61:765-770.   10.1002/lno.10251   AbstractWebsite

We adopt a trait-based approach to explain Diel Vertical Migration (DVM) across a diverse assemblage of planktonic copepods, utilizing body size as a master trait. We find a reproducible pattern of body size-dependence of day and night depths occupied, and of DVM. Both the smallest surface-dwelling and the largest deeper-dwelling copepods refrain from migrations, while intermediate-sized individuals show pronounced DVM. This pattern apparently arises as a consequence of size-dependent predation risk. In the size classes of migratory copepods the amplitude of DVM is further modulated by optical attenuation in the ocean water column because increased turbidity decreases encounter rates with visually hunting predators. Long-term changes in the ocean optical environment are expected to alter the vertical distributions of many copepods and thus to affect predator-prey encounters as well as oceanic carbon export.

Lindegren, M, Checkley DM, Ohman MD, Koslow JA, Goericke R.  2016.  Resilience and stability of a pelagic marine ecosystem. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences. 283   10.1098/rspb.2015.1931   AbstractWebsite

The accelerating loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services worldwide has accentuated a long-standing debate on the role of diversity in stabilizing ecological communities and has given rise to a field of research on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (BEF). Although broad consensus has been reached regarding the positive BEF relationship, a number of important challenges remain unanswered. These primarily concern the underlying mechanisms by which diversity increases resilience and community stability, particularly the relative importance of statistical averaging and functional complementarity. Our understanding of these mechanisms relies heavily on theoretical and experimental studies, yet the degree to which theory adequately explains the dynamics and stability of natural ecosystems is largely unknown, especially in marine ecosystems. Using modelling and a unique 60-year dataset covering multiple trophic levels, we show that the pronounced multi-decadal variability of the Southern California Current System (SCCS) does not represent fundamental changes in ecosystem functioning, but a linear response to key environmental drivers channelled through bottom-up and physical control. Furthermore, we show strong temporal asynchrony between key species or functional groups within multiple trophic levels caused by opposite responses to these drivers. We argue that functional complementarity is the primary mechanism reducing community variability and promoting resilience and stability in the SCCS.

Stukel, MR, Kahru M, Benitez-Nelson CR, Decima M, Goericke R, Landry MR, Ohman MD.  2015.  Using Lagrangian-based process studies to test satellite algorithms of vertical carbon flux in the eastern North Pacific Ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 120:7208-7222.   10.1002/2015jc011264   AbstractWebsite

The biological carbon pump is responsible for the transport of similar to 5-20 Pg C yr(-1) from the surface into the deep ocean but its variability is poorly understood due to an incomplete mechanistic understanding of the complex underlying planktonic processes. In fact, algorithms designed to estimate carbon export from satellite products incorporate fundamentally different assumptions about the relationships between plankton biomass, productivity, and export efficiency. To test the alternate formulations of export efficiency in remote-sensing algorithms formulated by Dunne et al. (2005), Laws et al. (2011), Henson et al. (2011), and Siegel et al. (2014), we have compiled in situ measurements (temperature, chlorophyll, primary production, phytoplankton biomass and size structure, grazing rates, net chlorophyll change, and carbon export) made during Lagrangian process studies on seven cruises in the California Current Ecosystem and Costa Rica Dome. A food-web based approach formulated by Siegel et al. (2014) performs as well or better than other empirical formulations, while simultaneously providing reasonable estimates of protozoan and mesozooplankton grazing rates. By tuning the Siegel et al. (2014) algorithm to match in situ grazing rates more accurately, we also obtain better in situ carbon export measurements. Adequate representations of food-web relationships and grazing dynamics are therefore crucial to improving the accuracy of export predictions made from satellite-derived products. Nevertheless, considerable unexplained variance in export remains and must be explored before we can reliably use remote sensing products to assess the impact of climate change on biologically mediated carbon sequestration.

Powell, JR, Ohman MD.  2015.  Changes in zooplankton habitat, behavior, and acoustic scattering characteristics across glider-resolved fronts in the Southern California Current System. Progress in Oceanography. 134:77-92.   10.1016/j.pocean.2014.12.011   AbstractWebsite

We report cross-frontal changes in the characteristics of plankton proxy variables measured by autonomous Spray ocean gliders operating within the Southern California Current System (SCCS). A comparison of conditions across the 154 positive frontal gradients (i.e., where density of the surface layer decreased in the offshore direction) identified from six years of continuous measurements showed that waters on the denser side of the fronts typically showed higher Chl-a fluorescence, shallower euphotic zones, and higher acoustic backscatter than waters on the less dense side. Transitions between these regions were relatively abrupt. For positive fronts the amplitude of Diel Vertical Migration (DVM), inferred from a 3-beam 750 kHz acoustic Doppler profiler, increased offshore of fronts and covaried with optical transparency of the water column. Average interbeam variability in acoustic backscatter also changed across many positive fronts within 3 depth strata (0-150 m, 150-400 m, and 400-500 m), revealing a front related change in the acoustic scattering characteristics of the assemblages. The extent of vertical stratification of distinct scattering assemblages was also more pronounced offshore of positive fronts. Depth-stratified zooplankton samples collected by Mocness nets corroborated the autonomous measurements, showing copepod-dominated assemblages and decreased zooplankton body sizes offshore and euphausiid-dominated assemblages with larger median body sizes inshore of major frontal features. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Bednarsek, N, Ohman MD.  2015.  Changes in pteropod distributions and shell dissolution across a frontal system in the California Current System. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 523:93-103.   10.3354/meps11199   AbstractWebsite

We tested the sensitivity of the vertical distributions and shell dissolution patterns of thecosome pteropods to spatial gradients associated with an eddy-associated front in the southern California Current System. The aragonite saturation horizon (Omega(arag) = 1.0) shoaled from > 200 to <75 m depth across the front. The vertical distribution of thecosome pteropods tracked these changes, with all 5 species showing reduced occurrence at depths below 100 m where waters were less saturated with respect to aragonite. Shell dissolution patterns of the numerically dominant thecosome Limacina helicina corresponded to the cross-frontal changes in Omega(arag) saturation state. Severe shell dissolution ( categorized here as Type II and Type III) was low in near-surface waters where Omega(arag) > 1.4, while peak dissolution occurred in depths where Omega(arag) = 1.0 to 1.4. Vertical habitat compression and increased shell dissolution may be expected to accompany future shoaling of waters that are undersaturated with respect to aragonite.

Sydeman, WJ, Thompson SA, Santora JA, Koslow JA, Goericke R, Ohman MD.  2015.  Climate-ecosystem change off southern California: Time-dependent seabird predator-prey numerical responses. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 112:158-170.   10.1016/j.dsr2.2014.03.008   AbstractWebsite

Climate change may increase both stratification and upwelling in marine ecosystems, but these processes may affect productivity in opposing or complementary ways. For the Southern California region of the California Current Ecosystem (CCE), we hypothesized that changes in stratification and upwelling have affected marine bird populations indirectly through changes in prey availability. To test this hypothesis, we derived trends and associations between stratification and upwelling, the relative abundance of potential prey including krill and forage fish, and seabirds based on the long-term, multi-disciplinary CalCOFI/CCE-LTER program. Over the period 1987 through 2011, spring and summer seabird density (all species combined) declined by similar to 2% per year, mostly in the northern sector of the study region. Krill showed variable trends with two species increasing and one deceasing, resulting in community reorganization. Nearshore forage fish, dominated by northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax) as well as offshore mesopelagic species, show declines in relative abundance over this period. The unidirectional decline in springtime seabird density is largely explained by declining nearshore fish abundance in the previous season (winter). Interannual variability in seabird density, especially in the 2000s, is explained by variability in krill abundance. Changes in the numerical responses of seabirds to prey abundance correspond to a putative ecosystem shift in 1998-1999 and support aspects of optimal foraging (diet) theory. Predator-prey interactions and numerical responses clearly explain aspects of the upper trophic level patterns of change in the pelagic ecosystem off southern California. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Powell, JR, Ohman MD.  2015.  Covariability of zooplankton gradients with glider-detected density fronts in the Southern California Current System. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 112:79-90.   10.1016/j.dsr2.2014.04.002   AbstractWebsite

Fronts represent sharp boundaries between water masses, but seasonal and interannual variation in their occurrence and effects on the distributions of pelagic organisms are poorly understood. This study reports results from six years of ocean front observations (2006-2011) along two transect lines across the Southern California Current System (SCCS) using autonomous Spray ocean gliders. During this time, 154 positive near-surface density fronts were identified within 124 completed transects consisting of nearly 23,000 vertical profiles. The incidence of surface density fronts showed distinct seasonality along line 80 off Pt. Conception, with fewer fronts occurring during winter months and more numerous fronts in the nearshore and during spring, summer and fall. On line 90, fronts were the least common nearshore and most frequent in a transitional region offshore. Horizontal density gradients in the surface layer (0-50 m) were significantly correlated with horizontal gradients in surface layer Chlorophyll-a (Chl-a) fluorescence, as well as with mean volume backscatter (MVBS) recorded by a 750 kHz acoustic Doppler profiler. Density fronts were not only zones of rapidly changing phytoplankton and zooplankton biomass concentrations, but also more likely to be zones of enhanced acoustic backscatter and Chl-a fluorescence than regions flanking the fronts. MVBS and Chl-a gradients were significantly correlated with gradients in other hydrographic variables such as temperature, salinity, and spiciness, and weakly with cross-track current velocity, though density gradients remained the single best predictor of strong MVBS and fluorescence gradients. Large mobile predators foraging in the vicinity of such features could locate habitat with higher zooplankton biomass concentrations up to 85% of the time by traveling up local density gradients (i.e., toward rather than away from denser surface waters). We discuss implications of these results in the context of long-term trends in ocean fronts in the SCCS. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Kang, YS, Ohman MD.  2014.  Comparison of long-term trends of zooplankton from two marine ecosystems across the North Pacific: Northeastern Asian marginal sea and Southern California current system. California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations Reports. 55:169-182. AbstractWebsite

Long-term trends of zooplankton biomass (1968-2009) and major zooplankton taxa (1978-2009) were examined across the North Pacific in the Northeastern Asian Marginal Sea (NeAMS) and the Southern California Current System (SCC) to test for evidence of basin-scale synchrony. Zooplankton biomass showed contrasting long-term patterns in the two regions: an increasing trend (as wet mass) in the NeAMS, but a decreasing trend (as displacement volume) in the SCC. Zooplankton biomass covaried with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation in the NeAMS, but with the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation in the SCC. In the NeAMS, increasing zooplankton biomass was closely associated with increases of all major zooplankton groups (copepods, chaetognaths, euphausiids, and hyperiid amphipods). In the SCC, decreasing zooplankton biomass was caused by declining tunicates and chaetognaths. Seasonal cycles and responses to El Nino also differed between the two regions. In this cross-basin comparison, zooplankton showed differing patterns that reflect region-specific physical and biotic processes rather than synchronous responses to large-scale atmosphere-ocean forcing.

Smith, KL, Sherman AD, Huffard CL, McGill PR, Henthorn R, Von Thun S, Ruhl HA, Kahru M, Ohman MD.  2014.  Large salp bloom export from the upper ocean and benthic community response in the abyssal northeast Pacific: Day to week resolution. Limnology and Oceanography. 59:745-757.   10.4319/lo.2014.59.3.0745   AbstractWebsite

A large bloom of Salpa spp. in the northeastern Pacific during the spring of 2012 resulted in a major deposition of tunics and fecal pellets on the seafloor at similar to 4000 m depth (Sta. M) over a period of 6 months. Continuous monitoring of this food pulse was recorded using autonomous instruments: sequencing sediment traps, a time-lapse camera on the seafloor, and a bottom-transiting vehicle measuring sediment community oxygen consumption (SCOC). These deep-sea measurements were complemented by sampling of salps in the epipelagic zone by California Cooperative Ocean Fisheries Investigations. The particulate organic carbon (POC) flux increased sharply beginning in early March, reaching a peak of 38 mg C m(-2) d(-1) in mid-April at 3400 m depth. Salp detritus started appearing in images of the seafloor taken in March and covered a daily maximum of 98% of the seafloor from late June to early July. Concurrently, the SCOC rose with increased salp deposition, reaching a high of 31 mg C m(-2) d(-1) in late June. A dominant megafauna species, Peniagone sp. A, increased 7-fold in density beginning 7 weeks after the peak in salp deposition. Estimated food supply from salp detritus was 97-327% of the SCOC demand integrated over the 6-month period starting in March 2012. Such large episodic pulses of food sustain abyssal communities over extended periods of time.

Martz, T, Send U, Ohman MD, Takeshita Y, Bresnahan P, Kim HJ, Nam S.  2014.  Dynamic variability of biogeochemical ratios in the Southern California Current System. Geophysical Research Letters. 41:2496-2501.   10.1002/2014gl059332   AbstractWebsite

We use autonomous nitrate (NO3-), oxygen (O-2), and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) observations to examine the relationship between ratios of C:N:O at an upwelling site in the Southern California Current System. Mean ratios and 95% confidence intervals observed by sensors over 8 months were NO3-:O-2=-0.110.002, NO3-:DIC=0.140.001, and DIC:O-2=-0.830.01, in good agreement with Redfield ratios. Variability in the ratios on the weekly time scale is attributable to shifts in biological demand and nutrient availability and shown to exhibit a spectrum of values ranging from near 100% New Production to 100% Regenerated Production.

Di Lorenzo, E, Ohman MD.  2013.  A double-integration hypothesis to explain ocean ecosystem response to climate forcing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 110:2496-2499.   10.1073/pnas.1218022110   AbstractWebsite

Long-term time series of marine ecological indicators often are characterized by large-amplitude state transitions that can persist for decades. Understanding the significance of these variations depends critically on the underlying hypotheses characterizing expected natural variability. Using a linear autoregressive model in combination with long-term zooplankton observations off the California coast, we show that cumulative integrations of white-noise atmospheric forcing can generate marine population responses that are characterized by strong transitions and prolonged apparent state changes. This model provides a baseline hypothesis for explaining ecosystem variability and for interpreting the significance of abrupt responses and climate change signatures in marine ecosystems.

Combes, V, Chenillat F, Di Lorenzo E, Riviere P, Ohman MD, Bograd SJ.  2013.  Cross-shore transport variability in the California Current: Ekman upwelling vs. eddy dynamics. Progress in Oceanography. 109:78-89.   10.1016/j.pocean.2012.10.001   AbstractWebsite

The low-frequency dynamics of coastal upwelling and cross-shelf transport in the Central and Southern California Current System (CCS) are investigated using the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) over the period 1965-2008. An ensemble of passive tracers released in the numerical model is used to characterize the effects of linear (Ekman upwelling) and non-linear (mesoscale eddies) circulation dynamics on the statistics of advection of coastal waters. The statistics of passive tracers released in the subsurface show that the low-frequency variability of coastal upwelling and cross-shelf transport of the upwelled water mass are strongly correlated with the alongshore wind stress, and are coherent between the central and southern CCS. However, the offshore transport of tracers released at the surface is not coherent between the two regions, and is modulated by intrinsic mesoscale eddy activity, in particular cyclonic eddies. The transport of cyclonic eddies extends with depth and entrains water masses of southern origin, advected by the poleward California Undercurrent (CUC). The CUC water masses are not only entrained by eddies but also constitute a source for the central California upwelling system. The interplay between intrinsic (eddy activity) and deterministic (Ekman upwelling) dynamics in controlling the cross-shelf exchanges in the CCS may provide an improved framework to understand and interpret nutrients and ecosystem variability. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Ohman, MD, Rudnick DL, Chekalyuk A, Davis RE, Feely RA, Kahru M, Kim HJ, Landry MR, Martz TR, Sabine CL, Send U.  2013.  Autonomous ocean measurements in the California Current ecosystem. Oceanography. 26:18-25. AbstractWebsite

Event-scale phenomena, of limited temporal duration or restricted spatial extent, often play a disproportionately large role in ecological processes occurring in the ocean water column. Nutrient and gas fluxes, upwelling and downwelling, transport of biogeochemically important elements, predator-prey interactions, and other processes may be markedly influenced by such events, which are inadequately resolved from infrequent ship surveys. The advent of autonomous instrumentation, including underwater gliders, profiling floats, surface drifters, enhanced moorings, coastal high-frequency radars, and satellite remote sensing, now provides the capability to resolve such phenomena and assess their role in structuring pelagic ecosystems. These methods are especially valuable when integrated together, and with shipboard calibration measurements and experimental programs.

Ohman, MD, Barbeau K, Franks PJS, Goericke R, Landry MR, Miller AJ.  2013.  Ecological transitions in a coastal upwelling ecosystem. Oceanography. 26:210-219. AbstractWebsite

The southern California Current Ecosystem (CCE) is a dynamic eastern boundary current ecosystem that is forced by ocean-atmosphere variability on interannual, multidecadal, and long-term secular time scales. Recent evidence suggests that apparent abrupt transitions in ecosystem conditions reflect linear tracking of the physical environment rather than oscillations between alternative preferred states. A space-for-time exchange is one approach that permits use of natural spatial variability in the CCE to develop a mechanistic understanding needed to project future temporal changes. The role of (sub)mesoscale frontal systems in altering rates of nutrient transport, primary and secondary production, export fluxes, and the rates of encounters between predators and prey is an issue central to this pelagic ecosystem and its future trajectory because the occurrence of such frontal features is increasing.

Litchman, E, Ohman MD, Kiorboe T.  2013.  Trait-based approaches to zooplankton communities. Journal of Plankton Research. 35:473-484.   10.1093/plankt/fbt019   AbstractWebsite

Zooplankton are major primary consumers and predators in most aquatic ecosystems. They exhibit tremendous diversity of traits, ecological strategies and, consequently, impacts on other trophic levels and the cycling of materials and energy. An adequate representation of this diversity in community and ecosystem models is necessary to generate realistic predictions on the functioning of aquatic ecosystems but remains extremely challenging. We propose that the use of trait-based approaches is a promising way to reduce complexity while retaining realism in developing novel descriptions of zooplankton in ecosystem models. Characterizing zooplankton traits and trade-offs will also be helpful in understanding the selection pressures and diversity patterns that emerge in different ecosystems along major environmental gradients. Zooplankton traits can be characterized according to their function and type. Some traits, such as body size and motility, transcend several functions and are major determinants of zooplankton ecological strategies. Future developments of trait-based approaches to zooplankton should assemble a comprehensive matrix of key traits for diverse groups and explore it for general patterns; develop novel predictive models that explicitly incorporate traits and associated trade-offs; and utilize these traits to explain and predict zooplankton community structure and dynamics under different environmental conditions, including global change scenarios.

Brinton, E, Townsend AW, Knight MD, Ohman MD.  2013.  Development of thysanopoda egregia (euphausiacea) furciliae and early juvenile. Journal of Crustacean Biology. 33:244-252.   10.1163/1937240x-00002139   AbstractWebsite

Nine furcilia and the early juvenile phase of the deep-sea euphausiid Thysanopoda egregia Hansen, 1905 are described and illustrated for the first time. This identification of the bathypelagic species is made on the basis of the very large, well-developed and dark-brown eyes, short sixth pleomere, large body size relative to stage of development, ripple-like sculpturing of the posterior and lateral parts of the carapace, and the number of terminal telson spines in the first five stages, F1-F5. The ripple marks on the carapace are a particularly distinctive characteristic of T. egregia. Because of the rarity of the nauplius, metanauplius, and calyptopis phases for this species and the unknown identification of the other three deep-living species of Thysanopoda, we are not yet able to positively identify these phases with confidence and that information is not presented here. A distribution map of records of furciliae of T. egregia from our samples and published sources corresponds with the previously described distribution of the adults, showing a cosmopolitan distribution in waters mainly equator-ward of the subpolar ocean provinces.

Batchelder, HP, Daly KL, Davis CS, Ji RB, Ohman MD, Peterson WT, Runge JA.  2013.  Climate impacts on zooplankton population dynamics in coastal marine ecosystems. Oceanography. 26:34-51. AbstractWebsite

The 20-year US GLOBEC (Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics) program examined zooplankton populations and their predators in four coastal marine ecosystems. Program scientists learned that environmental controls on zooplankton vital rates, especially the timing and magnitude of reproduction, growth, life-cycle progression, and mortality, determine species population dynamics, seasonal and spatial distributions, and abundances. Improved knowledge of spatial-temporal abundance and distribution of individual zooplankton taxa coupled with new information linking higher trophic level predators (salmon, cod, haddock, penguins, seals) to their prey yielded mechanistic descriptions of how climate variation impacts regionally important marine resources. Coupled ecological models driven by improved regional-scale climate scenario models developed during GLOBEC enable forecasts of plausible future conditions in coastal ecosystems, and will aid and inform decision makers and communities as they assess, respond, and adapt to the effects of environmental change. Multi-region synthesis revealed that conditions in winter, before upwelling, or seasonal stratification, or ice melt (depending on region) had significant and important effects that primed the systems for greater zooplankton population abundance and productivity the following spring-summer, with effects that propagated to higher trophic levels.

Di Lorenzo, E, Combes V, Keister JE, Strub PT, Thomas AC, Franks PJS, Ohman MD, Furtado JC, Bracco A, Bograd SJ, Peterson WT, Schwing FB, Chiba S, Taguchi B, Hormazabal S, Parada C.  2013.  Synthesis of Pacific Ocean climate and ecosystem dynamics. Oceanography. 26:68-81. AbstractWebsite

The goal of the Pacific Ocean Boundary Ecosystem and Climate Study (POBEX) was to diagnose the large-scale climate controls on regional transport dynamics and lower trophic marine ecosystem variability in Pacific Ocean boundary systems. An international team of collaborators shared observational and eddy-resolving modeling data sets collected in the Northeast Pacific, including the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) and the California Current System (CCS), the Humboldt or Peru-Chile Current System (PCCS), and the Kuroshio-Oyashio Extension (KOE) region. POBEX investigators found that a dominant fraction of decadal variability in basin- and regional-scale salinity, nutrients, chlorophyll, and zooplankton taxa is explained by a newly discovered pattern of ocean-climate variability dubbed the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). NPGO dynamics are driven by atmospheric variability in the North Pacific and capture the decadal expression of Central Pacific El Ninos in the extratropics, much as the PDO captures the low-frequency expression of eastern Pacific El Ninos. By combining hindcasts of eddy-resolving ocean models over the period 1950-2008 with model passive tracers and long-term observations (e.g., CalCOFI, Line-P, Newport Hydrographic Line, Odate Collection), POBEX showed that the PDO and the NPGO combine to control low-frequency upwelling and alongshore transport dynamics in the North Pacific sector, while the eastern Pacific El Nino dominates in the South Pacific. Although different climate modes have different regional expressions, changes in vertical transport (e.g., upwelling) were found to explain the dominant nutrient and phytoplankton variability in the CCS, GOA, and PCCS, while changes in alongshore transport forced much of the observed long-term change in zooplankton species composition in the KOE as well as in the northern and southern CCS. In contrast, cross-shelf transport dynamics were linked to mesoscale eddy activity, driven by regional-scale dynamics that are largely decoupled from variations associated with the large-scale climate modes. Preliminary findings suggest that mesoscale eddies play a key role in offshore transport of zooplankton and impact the life cycles of higher trophic levels (e.g., fish) in the CCS, PCCS, and GOA. Looking forward, POBEX results may guide the development of new modeling and observational strategies to establish mechanistic links among climate forcing, mesoscale circulation, and marine population dynamics.

Stukel, MR, Ohman MD, Benitez-Nelson CR, Landry MR.  2013.  Contributions of mesozooplankton to vertical carbon export in a coastal upwelling system. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 491:47-+.   10.3354/meps10453   AbstractWebsite
Li, QP, Franks PJS, Ohman MD, Landry MR.  2012.  Enhanced nitrate fluxes and biological processes at a frontal zone in the southern California current system. Journal of Plankton Research. 34:790-801.   10.1093/plankt/fbs006   AbstractWebsite

Processes that occur at mesoscale and submesoscale features such as eddies and fronts are important for marine ecosystem dynamics and biogeochemical fluxes. However, their impacts on the fate of biogenic organic carbon in coastal oceans are not well quantified because physical and biological interactions at such features are very complex with short time-and small spatial scales variability. As part of the California Current Ecosystem Long-Term Ecological Research (CCE-LTER) Process studies in the southern California Current in October 2008, we sampled across a strong temperature and chlorophyll front ('A-Front') separating water masses with distinct hydrographic and biogeochemical characteristics and a modified biological assemblage at the frontal interface. Thorpe-scale analyses of the hydrographic data from a free-fall moving vessel profiler suggested an increased diapycnal diffusive nitrate flux at the front zone. Based on these field data, we use data-driven diagnostic biogeochemical models to quantify how the front-induced physical mixing influenced the production, grazing and transport of phytoplankton carbon in the southern California Current. Our results suggest that enhanced diffusive diapycnal fluxes of nutrients stimulated phytoplankton primary production at the front; this effect, together with reduced microzooplankton grazing, increased net growth of the phytoplankton community leading to locally enhanced biomass of large phytoplankton, such as diatoms, in the frontal zone.

Ohman, MD, Powell JR, Picheral M, Jensen DW.  2012.  Mesozooplankton and particulate matter responses to a deep-water frontal system in the southern California Current System. Journal of Plankton Research. 34:815-827.   10.1093/plankt/fbs028   AbstractWebsite

We analyzed the abundance of mesozooplankton and suspended particulate matter across the deep-water A-Front in the southern sector of the California Current System. We characterized the A-Front with two novel devices, a free-fall Moving Vessel Profiler (MVP) and an Underwater Vision Profiler 5 (UVP5), together with quantitative bongo samples analyzed by ZooScan. The MVP permitted real-time visualization of vertical density structure, chlorophyll a fluorescence and particle size structure (from a laser optical particle counter) across the front to a depth of 200 m with the research vessel moving at 6 m s(1). The UVP5 quantified in situ vertical distributions from digital images of planktonic organisms and particles in profiles to 300 m. Both the MVP and UVP5 indicated that organic aggregates increased several-fold at the A-Front. The A-Front was a region of elevated abundance of mainly particle-grazing mesozooplankton, including calanoid copepods, Oithona spp., appendicularians and euphausiids, as well as a site of elevated ratio of nauplii copepod(1). In contrast, poecilostomatoid copepods, ostracods, chaetognaths and radiolaria, most of which are more carnivorous or omnivorous, were all elevated in abundance to the south of the front. We provide evidence that submesoscale fronts can be regions of locally elevated plankton abundance and production, as well sites of faunal transitions.

Landry, MR, Ohman MD, Goericke R, Stukel MR, Barbeau KA, Bundy R, Kahru M.  2012.  Pelagic community responses to a deep-water front in the California Current Ecosystem: overview of the A-Front Study. Journal of Plankton Research. 34:739-748.   10.1093/plankt/fbs025   AbstractWebsite

In October 2008, we investigated pelagic community composition and biomass, from bacteria to fish, across a sharp frontal gradient overlying deep waters south of Point Conception, California. This northsouth gradient, which we called A-Front, was formed by the eastward flow of the California Current and separated cooler mesotrophic waters of coastal upwelling origin to the north, from warm oligotrophic waters of likely mixed subarcticsubtropical origin to the south. Plankton biomass and phytoplankton growth rates were two to three times greater on the northern side, and primary production rates were elevated 5-fold to the north. Compared with either of the adjacent waters, the frontal interface was strongly enriched and uniquely defined by a subsurface bloom of large diatoms, elevated concentrations of suspension-feeding zooplankton, high bioacoustical estimates of pelagic fish and enhanced bacterial production and phytoplankton biomass and photosynthetic potential. Such habitats, though small in areal extent, may contribute disproportionately and importantly to regional productivity, nutrient cycling, carbon fluxes and trophic ecology. As a general introduction to the A-Front study, we provide an overview of its design and implementation, a brief summary of major findings and a discussion of potential mechanisms of plankton enrichment at the front.

Ohman, MD.  2012.  Estimation of mortality for stage-structured zooplankton populations: What is to be done? Journal of Marine Systems. 93:4-10.   10.1016/j.jmarsys.2011.05.008   AbstractWebsite

Estimation of zooplankton mortality rates in field populations is a challenging task that some contend is inherently intractable. This paper examines several of the objections that are commonly raised to efforts to estimate mortality. We find that there are circumstances in the field where it is possible to sequentially sample the same population and to resolve biologically caused mortality, albeit with error. Precision can be improved with sampling directed by knowledge of the physical structure of the water column, combined with adequate sample replication. Intercalibration of sampling methods can make it possible to sample across the life history in a quantitative manner. Rates of development can be constrained by laboratory-based estimates of stage durations from temperature- and food-dependent functions, mesocosm studies of molting rates, or approximation of development rates from growth rates, combined with the vertical distributions of organisms in relation to food and temperature gradients. Careful design of field studies guided by the assumptions of specific estimation models can lead to satisfactory mortality estimates, but model uncertainty also needs to be quantified. We highlight additional issues requiring attention to further advance the field, including the need for linked cooperative studies of the rates and causes of mortality of co-occurring holozooplankton and ichthyoplankton. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.