Variability in community composition is often attributed to underlying differences in physical environments. However, predator–prey interactions can play an equally important role in structuring communities. Although environmental differences select for different species assemblages, less is known about their impacts on trait compositions. We develop a trait-based analysis of plankton communities of the southern California Current System across multiple trophic levels, from bacteria to mesozooplankton, and over a gradient of environmental conditions, from the oligotrophic open ocean to coastal upwelling. Across a factor of four differences in total community biomass, we observe similarities in the size structure along the environmental gradient, with the most pronounced departures from proportional variations in the biomasses found in the largest protists (> 40 µm). Differences in the trait distributions emerge within a small range of size groups: greater biomass contribution of larger autotrophs (> 10 µm) is observed only for the upwelling region.
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Data and participation from CCE-LTER were supported by US National Science Foundation Grants OCE-04-17616 and OCE-10-26607. This work was supported by the Centre for Ocean Life, a VKR Centre of excellence funded by the Villum Foundation, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (#5479). The authors thank Philipp Brun for his assistance and guidance during the application of the statistical analysis and Thomas Kiørboe and Martin Lindegren for insightful discussions during concept development. The authors would also like to acknowledge Emma Tovar for her continued efforts in conducting the ZooScan analysis for the CCE-LTER programme.
Data collected as a part of the California Current Ecosystem LTER programme can be found at https://oceaninformatics.ucsd.edu/datazoo/catalogs/ccelter/datasets.
KMK, KHA and AWV developed the concept of the trait-based analysis presented in the study. KMK conducted the analysis and prepared the first draft of the manuscript. KHA, AWV and MDO provided the supervision and guidance during the study progression. MDO contributed the mesozooplankton data and assistance with characterizations of zooplankton traits and ocean hydrography. MRL contributed pico-, nano- and microplankton data and guidance with characterizations of resource acquisition traits. All authors provided critical feedback and substantially contributed to manuscript revisions.
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Kenitz, K.M., Visser, A.W., Ohman, M.D. et al. Community Trait Distribution Across Environmental Gradients. Ecosystems 22, 968–980 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-018-0314-5
- Activity traits
- California current
- community structure
- feeding mode
- multi-trophic interactions
- resource acquisition
- size distribution