The North Atlantic Ocean as habitat for Calanus finmarchicus : environmental factors and life history traits

Melle, Webjorn and Runge, Jeffrey and Head, Erica and Plourde, Stephane and Castellani, Claudia and Licandro, Priscilla and Pierson, James and Jonasdottir, Sigrun and Johnson, Catherine and Broms, Cecile and Debes, Hogni and Falkenhaug, Tone and Gaard, Eilif and Gislason, Astthor and Heath, Michael and Niehoff, Barbara and Nielsen, Torkel Gissel and Pepin, Pierre and Steinevik, Erling Kaare and Chust, Guillern (2014) The North Atlantic Ocean as habitat for Calanus finmarchicus : environmental factors and life history traits. Progress in Oceanography, 129B. 244–284. ISSN 0079-6611 (

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This paper addresses relationships between the distribution and abundance of zooplankton and its habitat in the northern North Atlantic Ocean. Distributions of ten representative zooplankton taxa, from recent (2000-2009) Continuous Plankton Recorder data, are presented, along with basin-scale patterns of annual sea surface temperature and phytoplankton color. The distribution patterns represent the manifestation of very different physiological, life history and ecological interactions of each taxon with the North Atlantic habitat characteristics. The paper then focuses on a pan-Atlantic compilation of demographic and life history information for the planktonic copepod, Calanus finmarchicus, perhaps one of the most ecologically important and certainly the most studied zooplankton species in the North Atlantic. Abundance, dormancy, egg production and mortality in relation to temperature and phytoplankton biomass, using chlorophyll a as a proxy, are analyzed in the context of understanding factors involved in determining the distribution and abundance of C. finmarchicus across its range. Several themes emerge: (1) transport of C. finmarchicus is from the south to the north in the northeast Atlantic, but from the north to the south in the western North Atlantic, which has implications for understanding population responses to climate forcing on coastal shelves, , (2) recruitment to the youngest copepodite stages occurs during or just after the phytoplankton bloom in the east while it occurs after the bloom in many western sites, (3) while the deep basins in the Labrador Sea and Norwegian Sea are primary sources of C. finmarchicus production, the western North Atlantic marginal seas have an important role in sustaining high C. finmarchicus abundance on the western North Atlantic shelves, (4) differences in mean temperature and chlorophyll concentration between the western and eastern North Atlantic are reflected in regional differences in female body size and egg production responses, (5) differences in functional responses in egg production rate may reflect genetic differences between western and eastern populations, (6) dormancy duration is generally shorter in the deep waters adjacent to the lower latitude western North Atlantic shelves than in the east, and (7) differences in stage-specific mortality rates are related to bathymetry, temperature and potential predators, notably the abundance of congeners Calanus hyperboreus and C. glacialis, which likely feed on early life stages of C. finmarchicus. Two modeling approaches have previously been used to interpret the abundance and distribution of C. finmarchicus in relation to the North Atlantic habitat. A statistical approach based on ecological niche theory and a dynamical modeling approach, based on knowledge of spatial population dynamics and life history and implemented by recent developments in coupled physical-life cycle modeling. The strengths and weaknesses of each approach are discussed. A synthesis of the two modeling approaches to predict North Atlantic zooplankton species shifts, not only for C. finmarchicus, but also for other major taxa, is advocated. While the computational resource requirements and lack of species-specific life history information for physical-biological modeling hinder full application for many zooplankton taxa, use of the approach, where possible, to understand advective influences will provide insight for interpretation of statistical predictions from species distribution models.