Jellyfish decomposition at the seafloor rapidly alter biogeochemical cycling and carbon flow through benthic food-webs

Andrew Sweetman, Ariella Chelsky, Kylie A. Pitt, Hector Andrade, Dick van Oevelen, Paul E. Renaud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Jellyfish blooms have increased in magnitude in several locations around the world, including in fjords. While the factors that promote jellyfish blooms and the impacts of live blooms on marine ecosystems are often investigated, the post-bloom effects from the sinking and accumulation of dead jellyfish at the seafloor remain poorly known. Here, we quantified the effect of jellyfish deposition on short-term benthic carbon cycling dynamics in benthic cores taken from a cold and deep fjord environment. Respiration was measured and 13C-labeled algae were used as a tracer to quantify how C-flow through the benthic food web was affected over 5 d in the presence and absence of jellyfish carcasses. Benthic respiration rates increased rapidly (within 2 h) in the jellyfish-amended cores, and were significantly higher than cores that were supplied with only labeled phytodetritus between 17 h and 117 h. In the cores that were supplied with only labeled phytodetritus, macrofauna dominated algal-C uptake over the 5 d study. The addition of jellyfish caused a rapid and significant shift in C-uptake dynamics: macrofaunal C-uptake decreased while bacterial C-uptake increased relative to the cores supplied with only phytodetritus. Our results suggest that the addition of jellyfish detritus to the seafloor can rapidly alter benthic biogeochemical cycling, and substantially modify C-flow through benthic communities. If our results are representative for other areas, they suggest that jellyfish blooms may have cascading effects for benthic ecosystem functions and services when blooms senesce, such as enhanced bacterial metabolism and reduced energy transfer to upper trophic levels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1449-1461
Number of pages13
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


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