Despite the diversity and oftentimes large biomass of jellyfish in marine systems, their ecological role remains poorly understood. We here provide the first systematic review of studies on jellyfish trophic ecology in the Baltic Sea (a regional marine system under strong multiple global and regional anthropogenic pressures). In total, we identified 57 peer-reviewed publications, with notable taxonomic bias towards two species (Aurelia aurita; non-indigenous Mnemiopsis leidyi) and spatial bias towards five areas (Bornholm Basin, Kiel Bight, Kertinge Nor, Lim- and Gullmarsfjord). The studies provide evidence for diverse trophic roles of jellyfish as predators and as competitors of other jellyfish, zooplankton and fish species. In combination, the studies also highlight potentially large impacts via top-down (grazing) and bottom-up (nutrient excretion) effects, but also, strong spatio-temporal variability in the magnitude of these effects, depending on the occurrence of jellyfish blooms. Studies on the role of jellyfish as prey for fish, seabirds or marine mammals, and for benthic systems via food-falls, were limited or lacking for the Baltic Sea, despite increasing focus on these topics globally. Improved understanding of the temporal (seasonal, inter-annual, long-term) and spatial variability of blooms and corresponding trophic effects, would provide more systematic understanding of the ecological role of jellyfish in the spatio-temporally variable Baltic Sea. A broader spatial coverage, inclusion of more jellyfish taxa and under-studied early life history stages, as well as the implementation and continuation of long-term data series would represent important steps towards this goal.
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© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.