Inès Mangolte, Marina Lévy, Stephanie Dutkiewicz, Sophie Clayton, Oliver Jahn (2022), Plankton community response to fronts: winners and losersJournal of Plankton Research, doi: 10.1093/plankt/fbac010


Fronts are particularly productive regions of the ocean, and biodiversity hotspots for many marine species. Here we use an ocean-ecosystem model to investigate the effect of fronts on plankton ecology. We focus on energetic fronts in Western Boundary Current systems that efficiently inject nutrients into the euphotic layer and which are physical boundaries between productive and oligotrophic provinces. We found that the fronts form an environment distinct from both provinces, favorable to some plankton groups (diatoms, dinoflagellates and large carnivorous zooplankton) and less favorable to others (pico-phytoplankton, coccolithophores and small grazers), and with an overall larger diversity. In agreement with previous understanding, we find that bottom-up abiotic processes (nutrient enrichment) explain the prevalence of groups with fast growing rates (the “winners”). Importantly, our results also show that biotic interactions within the ecosystem may play a larger role than previously thought. We show that the winners can have a negative impact on other plankton species (the “losers”) through two indirect competitive processes: community shading (modification of the light environment by the plankton community leading to light-limitation of some plankton groups) and shared predation (where an increase in one functional group leads to increased grazing by a shared predator on another functional group).