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

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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 Plankton Type Ocean Model (PlankTOM11) model groups organisms into plankton functional types (PFTs). 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 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 role in regulating global marine plankton ecosystems across plankton community structure, spatio-temporal dynamics and biomass, which is a role that has been generally neglected so far.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1291-1320
Number of pages30
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2021

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