Publication details.


Author(s):M. Louzao, J. Navarro, A. Delgado-Huertas, L. de Sola, M. Forero
Title:Surface oceanographic fronts influencing deep-sea biological activity: Using fish stable isotopes as ecological tracers
JCR Impact Factor:2.451
Abstract:© 2016 Elsevier Ltd Ecotones can be described as transition zones between neighbouring ecological systems that can be shaped by environmental gradients over a range of space and time scales. In the marine environment, the detection of ecotones is complex given the highly dynamic nature of marine systems and the paucity of empirical data over ocean-basin scales. One approach to overcome these limitations is to use stable isotopes from animal tissues since they can track spatial oceanographic variability across marine systems and, in turn, can be used as ecological tracers. Here, we analysed stable isotopes of deep-sea fishes to assess the presence of ecological discontinuities across the western Mediterranean. We were specifically interested in exploring the connection between deep-sea biological activity and particular oceanographic features (i.e., surface fronts) occurring in the pelagic domain. We collected samples for three different abundant deep-sea species in May 2004 from an experimental oceanographic trawling cruise (MEDITS): the Mictophydae jewel lanternfish Lampanyctus crocodilus and two species of the Gadidae family, the silvery pout Gadiculus argenteus and the blue whiting Micromesistius poutassou. The experimental survey occurred along the Iberian continental shelf and the upper and middle slopes, from the Strait of Gibraltar in the SW to the Cape Creus in the NE. The three deep-sea species were highly abundant throughout the study area and they showed geographic variation in their isotopic values, with decreasing values from north to south disrupted by an important change point around the Vera Gulf. Isotopic latitudinal gradients were explained by pelagic oceanographic conditions along the study area and confirm the existence of an ecotone at the Vera Gulf. This area could be considered as an oceanographic boundary where waters of Atlantic origin meet Mediterranean surface waters forming important frontal structures such as the Almeria-Oran front. In fact, our results relate geographical variation in stable isotopes of deep-sea fishes to regional changes in surface oceanography, highlighting the importance of mesoscale oceanographic features.

Related research groups

  • Ecology and Evolution