, Volume 451, Issue 1-3, pp 113-120

Timing and size of blooms of the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi in relation to temperature in Narragansett Bay, RI

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The ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi is at the northern extreme of its geographic range in Narragansett Bay, an estuary on the northeast coast of the United States. Blooms have typically been observed in late summer and fall according to records from 1950 to 1979. We document an expansion of the seasonal range of this important planktonic predator to include springtime blooms during the 1980s and 1990s. This shift to an earlier seasonal maximum is associated with increasing water temperature in Narragansett Bay. Temperatures in spring have risen, on average, 2 °C from 1950 to 1999 with warm years being associated with the positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation. During 1999, M. leidyi appeared earlier in spring and was more abundant than during any previous year for which records are available. Changes in the seasonal pattern and abundance of this predator are likely to have important effects on planktonic ecosystem dynamics of Narragansett Bay. These include reduction of zooplankton abundance in spring followed by increases in size and frequency of summer phytoplankton blooms. Earlier blooms of M. leidyi may also reduce survival of eggs and larvae of fish because, as in 1999, they coincide with the period of peak spawning.