Jellyweb Madeira: The neglected role of gelatinous zooplankton in North Atlantic oceanic food webs

Project: Regional Foundations

Project Details


Open ocean deep pelagic and benthic ecosystems are among the least explored systems on earth. While they harbor tremendous biodiversity and play a major role in carbon sequestration and climate regulation, yet these systems are threatened by climate change and increasing deep-sea fisheries and mining. Improving our knowledge on deep-sea biodiversity and ecosystem functioning is therefore essential, to provide baselines against which to measure impending changes, and as reference points for resource management and protection. Deep-sea biodiversity exploration has advanced rapidly, due to grand improvements in underwater technology, in situ observations, novel non-intrusive sampling, as well increasingly commonplace genetic approaches that can assist in the detection and classification of otherwise hard to sample taxa. A paradigm shift has been the realization that the biodiversity and abundance of gelatinous zooplankton is in fact much higher in the deep sea than previously thought. It is thus crucial to quantify the role of this group more systematically, as gelatinous organisms may span various trophic levels. Our work in the Cape Verde islands showed new and fragile species described for the first time in the Atlantic, demonstrating the power of novel and combined approaches to detect and sample. Considering the vast size and diversity of deep-sea communities, and the minute fraction that has been sampled to date due to the logistical and financial challenges, new efforts exploiting the potential of novel in-situ observation and sampling methods, in particular when combined with food web tracers, have enormous potential to fill gaps in our understanding of deep oceanic biodiversity, in particular for gelatinous zooplankton.

Key findings

Unrevealing open ocean plankton biodiversity

Layman's description

Did you know that there are mysterious parts of the ocean we don't know much about? These are the deep pelagic and benthic ecosystems. They're filled with many different plants and animals and help control the Earth's climate. But they're in danger from things like climate change, fishing, and mining. To help keep them safe, scientists are trying to learn more about the life there and how it all works. Using new tools and methods, scientists are exploring these hidden ocean areas. They've discovered that there are more jelly-like creatures called gelatinous zooplankton than they thought. These creatures are important because they're part of the food chain in the ocean. This cruise has the mission to discover the role of fragile animals such as jellyfish in the open ocean ecosystem.
Short titleJellyweb Madeira
Effective start/end date01/09/202330/04/2024


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