Arctic complexity: a case study on diel vertical migration of zooplankton

Jorgen Berge, Finlo Cottier, Oystein Varpe, Paul E. Renaud, Stig Falk-Petersen, Sawomir Kwasniewski, Colin Griffiths, Janne E. Soreide, Geir Johnsen, Anais Aubert, Oda Bjaerke, Johanna Hovinen, Signe Jung-Madsen, Martha Tveit, Sanna Majaneva

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Diel vertical migration (DVM) of zooplankton is a global phenomenon, characteristic of both marine and limnic environments. At high latitudes, patterns of DVM have been documented, but rather little knowledge exists regarding which species perform this ecologically important behaviour. Also, in the Arctic, the vertically migrating components of the zooplankton community are usually regarded as a single sound scattering layer (SSL) performing synchronized patterns of migration directly controlled by ambient light. Here, we present evidence for hitherto unknown complexity of Arctic marine systems, where zooplankton form multiple aggregations through the water column seen via acoustics as distinct SSLs. We show that while the initiation of DVM during the autumnal equinox is light mediated, the vertical positioning of the migrants during day is linked more to the thermal characteristics of water masses than to irradiance. During night, phytoplankton biomass is shown to be the most important factor determining the vertical positioning of all migrating taxa. Further, we develop a novel way of representing acoustic data in the form of a Sound Image (SI) that enables a direct comparison of the relative importance of each potential scatterer based upon the theoretical contribution of their backscatter. Based on our comparison of locations with contrasting hydrography, we conclude that a continued warming of the Arctic is likely to result in more complex ecotones across the Arctic marine system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1279-1297
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Plankton Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jul 2014


  • diel vertical migration
  • Arctic
  • ADCP
  • acoustics
  • zooplankton
  • physical forcing
  • predator-prey interactions
  • light regime
  • water masses
  • complexity


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