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Environmental drivers of vertical distribution in diapausing Calanus copepods in the Northwest Atlantic

Krumhansl, Kira A., Head, Erica J.H., Pepin, Pierre, Plourde, Stéphane, Record, Nicholas R., Runge, Jeffrey A., Johnson, Catherine L.
Progress in oceanography 2018 v.162 pp. 202-222
Calanus finmarchicus, Eubalaena glacialis, autumn, climate change, continental shelf, diapause, ecosystems, environmental factors, fish feeds, habitats, lipids, marine mammals, mixing, overwintering, population dynamics, spatial distribution, spring, summer, temperature, trophic relationships, winter, Gulf of Maine, Northwest Atlantic
Copepods of the genus Calanus play a critical trophic role in the North Atlantic ecosystems, where they serve as an important source of energy-rich food for fish and marine mammals, including the endangered North Atlantic right whale. As a strategy for coping with unfavorable near-surface conditions, Calanus enter diapause and migrate to deep water in late summer and fall after feeding and accumulating lipid stores in spring and summer. In order to assess the most important physical drivers of vertical distribution of diapausing Calanus, we synthesized existing depth-stratified abundance data of Calanus finmarchicus and Calanus hyperboreus from the Northwest Atlantic continental shelf and slope regions, spanning Newfoundland in the northeast to the Gulf of Maine in the southwest. Bottom depth strongly constrained the depth and shape of vertical distributions, with distributions becoming deeper and less compact as bottom depth increased. Diapausing Calanus, observed across a broad range of temperature (T) and in-situ density (σ) conditions (T = −1.0 to 14.4 °C, σ = 25.3–28.1 kg m−3), tended to distribute at depths with the coldest temperatures locally available. Over the shelf, diapausing Calanus in the GOM and SS generally did not have access to temperatures considered optimal for diapause (<5 °C), in many cases occurring at temperatures well above this threshold. Diapausing Calanus in both habitats were most commonly below the Cold Intermediate Layer (CIL), a feature formed through wind-driven mixing during the winter, but this effect was more obvious over the shelf than in slope waters. Our analysis highlights key differences in the vertical distributions of diapausing Calanus over the shelf vs. the slope, having regional implications for ecological dynamics and population persistence in the face of warming temperatures. In general, understanding factors that influence vertical distributions of diapausing Calanus will allow us to more accurately predict how the environmental conditions they encounter while overwintering may shift during climate change, which has implications for survival through diapause, and consequently, shelf-wide population dynamics.