Jelly-falls historic and recent observations: a review to drive future research directions
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The biological pump describes the transport of particulate matter from the sea surface to the ocean’s interior including the seabed. The contribution by gelatinous zooplankton bodies as particulate organic matter (POM) vectors (“jelly-falls”) has been neglected owing to technical and spatiotemporal sampling limitations. Here, we assess the existing evidence on jelly-falls from early ocean observations to present times. The seasonality of jelly-falls indicates that they mostly occur after periods of strong upwelling and/or spring blooms in temperate/subpolar zones and during late spring/early summer. A conceptual model helps to define a jelly-fall based on empirical and field observations of biogeochemical and ecological processes. We then compile and discuss existing strategic and observational oceanographic techniques that could be implemented to further jelly-falls research. Seabed video- and photography-based studies deliver the best results, and the correct use of fishing techniques, such as trawling, could provide comprehensive regional datasets. We conclude by considering the possibility of increased gelatinous biomasses in the future ocean induced by upper ocean processes favouring their populations, thus increasing jelly-POM downward transport. We suggest that this could provide a “natural compensation” for predicted losses in pelagic POM with respect to fuelling benthic ecosystems.