Moritz S. Schmid, Robert K. Cowen, Kelly Robinson, Jessica Y. Luo, Christian Briseño- Avena & Su Sponaugle
Scientific Reports 10:921 doi:10.1038/s41598-020-57879-x
Publication year: 2020

Eddies can enhance primary as well as secondary production, creating a diverse meso- and submesoscale

seascape at the eddy front which can affect the aggregation of plankton and particles.

Due to the coarse resolution provided by sampling with plankton nets, our knowledge of plankton

distributions at these edges is limited. We used a towed, undulating underwater imaging system to

investigate the physical and biological drivers of zoo- and ichthyoplankton aggregations at the edge of

a decaying mesoscale eddy (ME) in the Straits of Florida. Using a sparse Convolutional Neural Network

we identified 132 million images of plankton. Larval fish and Oithona spp. copepod concentrations were

significantly higher in the eddy water mass, compared to the Florida Current water mass, only four

days before the ME’s dissipation. Larval fish and Oithona distributions were tightly coupled, indicating

potential predator-prey interactions. Larval fishes are known predators of Oithona, however, Random

Forests models showed that Oithona spp. and larval fish concentrations were primarily driven by

variables signifying the physical footprint of the ME, such as current speed and direction. These results

suggest that eddy-related advection leads to largely passive overlap between predator and prey, a

positive, energy-efficient outcome for predators at the expense of prey.

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