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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 647:1-16 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13432

FEATURE ARTICLE
Integration of temporal environmental variation by the marine plankton community

Andrew D. Barton1,*, Fernando González Taboada2,3, Angus Atkinson4, Claire E. Widdicombe4, Charles A. Stock3

1Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Section of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
2Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Program, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
3Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
4Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth PL1 3DH, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Theory and observations suggest that low frequency variation in marine plankton populations, or red noise, may arise through cumulative integration of white noise atmospheric forcing by the ocean and its amplification within food webs. Here, we revisit evidence for the integration of stochastic atmospheric variations by comparing the power spectra of time series of atmospheric and oceanographic conditions to the population dynamics of 150 plankton taxa at Station L4 in the Western English Channel. The power spectra of oceanographic conditions (sea surface temperature, surface nitrate) are redder than those of atmospheric forcing (surface wind stress, net heat fluxes) at Station L4. However, plankton populations have power spectral slopes across trophic levels and body sizes that are redder than atmospheric forcing but whiter than oceanographic conditions. While zooplankton have redder spectral slopes than phytoplankton, there is no significant relationship between power spectral slope and body size or generation length. Using a predator-prey model, we show that the whitening of plankton time series relative to oceanographic conditions arises from noisy plankton bloom dynamics in this strongly seasonal system. The model indicates that, for typical predator-prey interactions, where the predator is on average 10 times longer than the prey, grazing leads to a modest reddening of phytoplankton variability by their larger and longer lived zooplankton consumers. Our findings suggest that, beyond extrinsic forcing by the environment, predator-prey interactions play a role in influencing the power spectra of time series of plankton populations.


KEY WORDS: Phytoplankton · Zooplankton · Climate · Station L4 · Population dynamics


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Cite this article as: Barton AD, González Taboada F, Atkinson A, Widdicombe CE, Stock CA (2020) Integration of temporal environmental variation by the marine plankton community. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 647:1-16. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13432

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