27 Mar 2023
 | 27 Mar 2023

Sub-frontal niches of plankton communities driven by transport and trophic interactions at ocean fronts

Inès Mangolte, Marina Lévy, Clément Haëck, and Mark D. Ohman

Abstract. Observations and theory have suggested that ocean fronts are ecological hotspots, associated with higher diversity and biomass across many trophic levels. The hypothesis that these hotspots are driven by frontal nutrient injections is seemingly supported by the frequent observation of opportunistic diatoms at fronts, but the behavior of the rest of the plankton community is largely unknown. Here we investigate the organization of planktonic communities across fronts by analyzing 8 high resolution transects in the California Current Ecosystem containing extensive data for 24 groups of bacteria, phytoplankton and zooplankton. We find that a distinct frontal plankton community characterized by enhanced biomass of not only diatoms and copepods but many other groups of plankton such as chaetognaths, rhizarians and appendicularians emerges over most fronts. Importantly, we find spatial variability at a finer scale (typically 1–5 km) than the width of the front itself (typically 10–30 km) with peaks of different plankton taxa at different locations across the width of a front. Our results suggest that multiple processes, including horizontal stirring and biotic interactions, are responsible for creating this fine-scale patchiness.

Inès Mangolte et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-471', Anonymous Referee #1, 06 Apr 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Ines Mangolte, 10 May 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-471', Anonymous Referee #2, 28 Apr 2023
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Ines Mangolte, 10 May 2023

Inès Mangolte et al.

Data sets

CCE-fronts code and data Inès Mangolte

Video supplement

CCE-fronts A Inès Mangolte

CCE-fronts C Inès Mangolte

CCE-fronts E Inès Mangolte

CCE-fronts F Inès Mangolte

Inès Mangolte et al.


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Short summary
Ocean fronts are ecological hotspots, associated with higher diversity and biomass for many marine organisms, from bacteria to whales. Using in-situ data from the California Current Ecosystem, we show that far from being limited to the production of diatom blooms, fronts are the scene of complex biophysical couplings between biotic interactions (growth, competition and predation) and transport by currents that generate planktonic communities with an original taxonomic and spatial structure.