In the productive California upwelling system, wind-driven upwelling brings deep, nutrient-rich waters to the surface. In a separate project, we showed that upwelling drives the spatio-temporal variability of phytoplankton and zooplankton communities. Here, we test the hypothesis that variations in coastal upwelling drive changes in marine ecosystems from the surface to the abyssal seafloor.

To do so, we integrate three highly unique and invaluable multi-decadal biological time series collected by various MBARI research groups (Chavez, Robison, and Smith). Data include microscopic counts of surface plankton (0 m), video quantification of midwater animals (200-1000 m), and imaging of benthic seafloor invertebrates (~ 4000 m). 

We found that, for each community, changes in abundance within communities accounted for most of the variation over time. When compared to local wind-driven upwelling, each community was found to respond to changes in upwelling on distinct timescales. These results suggest that coastal upwelling influences ecosystems from the surface ocean through the water column to the deep seafloor. The connection most likely occurs directly via changes in primary production and vertical export, and to a lesser extent indirectly via other oceanic changes.

The timescales over which species respond to upwelling are taxon-specific and are likely related to organism longevity. Our results may also provide a path towards estimating the average lifespan of marine organisms.



Messié, M., R.E. Sherlock, C.L. Huffard, J.T. Pennington, C.A. Choy, R.P. Michisaki, K. Gomes, F.P. Chavez, B.H. Robison, and K.L. Smith, Jr. 2023. Coastal upwelling drives ecosystem temporal variability from the surface to the abyssal seafloor. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 120(13): e2214567120.

Smith Jr, K., M. Messié, A. Sherman, C. Huffard, B. Hobson, H. Ruhl, and A. Boetius. 2015. "Navigating the uncertain future of global oceanic time series." EOS, 96: 28 October 2015.


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