Ocean fronts drive marine fishery production and biogeochemical cycling

Last modified: 
August 30, 2016 - 9:32am
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2015
Date published: 01/2015
Authors: Brock Woodson, Steven Litvin
Journal title: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
ISSN: 0027-8424

Long-term changes in nutrient supply and primary production reportedly foreshadow substantial declines in global marine fishery production. These declines combined with current overfishing, habitat degradation, and pollution paint a grim picture for the future of marine fisheries and ecosystems. However, current models forecasting such declines do not account for the effects of ocean fronts as biogeochemical hotspots. Here we apply a fundamental technique from fluid dynamics to an ecosystem model to show how fronts increase total ecosystem biomass, explain fishery production, cause regime shifts, and contribute significantly to global biogeochemical budgets by channeling nutrients through alternate trophic pathways. We then illustrate how ocean fronts affect fishery abundance and yield, using long-term records of anchovy–sardine regimes and salmon abundances in the California Current. These results elucidate the fundamental importance of biophysical coupling as a driver of bottom–up vs. top–down regulation and high productivity in marine ecosystems.

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