Boom and burst: Life history, environmental noise, and the (un)predictability of jellyfish blooms

Nicolas Azaña Schnedler-Meyer*, Thomas Kiørboe, Patrizio Mariani

*Corresponding author for this work

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Jellyfish (pelagic Cnidarians and Ctenophores) form erratic and seemingly unpredictable blooms with often large, transient effects on ecosystem structure. To rapidly capitalize on favorable conditions, jellyfish can employ different life histories, which are either a life cycle with one annual sexual reproduction event and an overwintering benthic stage (metagenic life cycle), or continuous reproduction and a holoplanktonic life cycle. However, the links between life history, blooms, and environmental variability are unclear. Here, we examine how environmental variability can drive the bloom dynamics of typical jellyfish in coastal enclosed or semi-enclosed temperate ecosystems. With a simple community model, we reproduce typical seasonalities of the two strategies and
trophic cascades triggered by abundant jellyfish, demonstrating how erratic blooms can be generated by irregular changes in the environment. Consistent with literature observations, we predict that metagenic jellyfish dominate early in the season, compared to holoplanktonic organisms, and are favored by increased seasonality. Our results reveal possible mechanisms driving coastal patterns of jellyfish blooms, and factors that are important for the outcome of competition between jellyfish with different life cycles. Such knowledge is important for our understanding of jellyfish blooms, which have large consequences for human activities and well-being, and may improve our ability to predict and manage local ecosystems
Original languageEnglish
Article number257
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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