Community trait distribution across environmental gradients

Kasia M. Kenitz*, Andre W. Visser, Mark D. Ohman, Michael R. Landry, Ken H. Andersen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Variability in community composition is often attributed to underlying differences in physical environments. However, predator–prey interactions can play an equally important role in structuring communities. Although environmental differences select for different species assemblages, less is known about their impacts on trait compositions. We develop a trait-based analysis of plankton communities of the southern California Current System across multiple trophic levels, from bacteria to mesozooplankton, and over a gradient of environmental conditions, from the oligotrophic open ocean to coastal upwelling. Across a factor of four differences in total community biomass, we observe similarities in the size structure along the environmental gradient, with the most pronounced departures from proportional variations in the biomasses found in the largest protists (> 40 µm). Differences in the trait distributions emerge within a small range of size groups: greater biomass contribution of larger autotrophs (> 10 µm) is observed only for the upwelling region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)968-980
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Activity traits
  • California current
  • Community structure
  • Feeding mode
  • Multi-trophic interactions
  • Plankton
  • Resource acquisition
  • Size distribution
  • Upwelling

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