Trends in phytoplankton communities within large marine ecosystems diverge from the global ocean

Publication: Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences1 October 2021


Large marine ecosystems (LMEs) are highly productive regions of the world ocean under anthropogenic pressures; we analyzed trends in sea surface temperature (SST), cloud fraction (CF), and chlorophyll concentration (CHL) over the period 1998–2019. Trends in these parameters within LMEs diverged from the world ocean. SST and CF inside LMEs increased at greater rates inside LMEs, whereas CHL decreased at a greater rates. CHL declined in 86% of all LMEs and of those trends, 70% were statistically significant. Complementary analyses suggest phytoplankton functional types within LMEs have also diverged from those characteristic of the world ocean, most notably, the contribution of diatoms and dinoflagellates, which have declined within LMEs. LMEs appear to be warming rapidly and receiving less solar radiation than the world ocean, which may be contributing to changes at the base of the food chain. Despite increased fishing effort, fishery yields in LMEs have not increased, pointing to limitations related to productivity. These changes raise concerns over the stability of these ecosystems and their continued ability to support services to human populations.


Les grands écosystèmes marins (LME) sont des régions très productives de l’océan planétaire exposées à des pressions d’origine humaine. Nous analysons les tendances de la température de la surface de la mer (TSM), de la proportion de nuages (PN) et de la concentration de chlorophylle (CHL) durant la période de 1998 à 2019. Les tendances de ces paramètres dans les LME divergent de celles de l’océan planétaire. La TSM et la PN ont augmenté plus rapidement dans les LME, alors que la CHL a diminué plus rapidement. Cette dernière a diminué dans 86 % de tous les LME, 70 % de ces baisses étant statistiquement significatives. Des analyses complémentaires indiqueraient que les types fonctionnels de phytoplancton dans les LME ont également divergé de ceux de l’océan planétaire, notamment en ce qui concerne les contributions des diatomées et des dinoflagellés, qui ont baissé dans les LME. Les LME semblent se réchauffer rapidement et recevoir moins de rayonnement solaire que l’océan planétaire, ce qui pourrait contribuer à des changements à la base de la chaîne alimentaire. Malgré un effort de pêche accru, les rendements des pêches dans les LME n’ont pas augmenté, ce qui indique des limites reliées à la productivité. Ces changements soulèvent des inquiétudes concernant la stabilité de ces écosystèmes et leur capacité de continuer à soutenir des services aux populations humaines. [Traduit par la Rédaction]
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Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Volume 78Number 11November 2021
Pages: 1689 - 1700


Received: 11 November 2020
Accepted: 6 May 2021
Published online: 1 October 2021


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Kevin D. Friedland
Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Narragansett, Rhode Island, USA.
John R. Moisan
Wallops Flight Facility, Goddard Space Flight Center, Wallops Island, Virginia, USA.
Aurore A. Maureaud
Centre for Ocean Life & Section for Ecosystem Based Marine Management, National Institute for Aquatic Sciences (DTU Aqua), Technical University of Denmark, Denmark.
Center for Biodiversity & Global Change, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
Damian C. Brady
School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Walpole, Maine, USA.
Andrew J. Davies
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island, USA.
Steven J. Bograd
Environmental Research Division, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Monterey, California, USA.
Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California-Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California, USA.
Reg A. Watson
Centre for Marine Socioecology, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 129, Hobart, Australia.
Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 129, Hobart, Australia.
Yannick Rousseau
Centre for Marine Socioecology, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 129, Hobart, Australia.
Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 129, Hobart, Australia.


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