MEPS 349:183-197 (2007)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07088

Springtime transport and retention of Calanus finmarchicus in Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bays, USA, and implications for right whale foraging

Mingshun Jiang1,*, Moira W. Brown2, Jefferson T. Turner3, Robert D. Kenney4, Charles A. Mayo5, Zibiao Zhang1, Meng Zhou1

1Department of Environmental, Earth, and Ocean Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, Massachusetts 02125, USA
2New England Aquarium, Central Wharf, Boston, Massachusetts 02110, USA
3Biology Department and School for Marine Science and Technology, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, North Dartmouth, Massachusetts 02747, USA
4Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882, USA
5Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, 115 Bradford Street, Provincetown, Massachusetts 02657, USA

ABSTRACT: The Massachusetts Bay (MB) and Cape Cod Bay (CCB) system is a unique coastal embayment, with CCB serving as a high-use feeding ground for endangered North Atlantic right whales Eubalaena glacialis during winter and early spring. We used a hydrodynamic model, observed Calanus finmarchicus (the preferred prey of right whales) abundance, and right whale sightings during 1997–2004 to examine the transport and retention of C. finmarchicus in MB-CCB and the implications for right whale activity. A particle-tracking program was embedded into the model to simulate the Lagrangian residual circulation, and the transport and retention of passive particles. The results indicate significant correlations in the inter-annual variability of coastal transport, circulation pattern, C. finmarchicus abundance, and right whale sightings in spring. In normal years (with prevailing northwesterly winds), the monthly mean distributions of particles and Lagrangian residual currents show a coherent pattern with 2 particle retention areas in central CCB and central MB, respectively. The CCB retention area closely matches the area of high probability of right whale occurrence and feeding activity, indicating that this is an area favorable to zooplankton aggregations. In other years (e.g. 2002), the coastal current is significantly reduced due to prevailing southwesterly winds, and the particle retention zone is shifted northward, coincident with low C. finmarchicus abundance and whale sightings in CCB. The study also suggests that the North Atlantic Oscillation may influence C. finmarchicus abundance and distributions, and hence, right whale feeding activity in CCB through surface winds affecting MB-CCB circulation, and hence, zooplankton distributions.


KEY WORDS: Numerical model · Circulation · Calanus finmarchicus · Right whale · Retention · Massachusetts Bay · Cape Cod Bay · North Atlantic Oscillation


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Cite this article as: Jiang M, Brown MW, Turner JT, Kenney RD, Mayo CA, Zhang Z, Zhou M (2007) Springtime transport and retention of Calanus finmarchicus in Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bays, USA, and implications for right whale foraging. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 349:183-197. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07088

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