Mesoscale eddies are oases for higher trophic marine life

PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e30161. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030161. Epub 2012 Jan 17.


Mesoscale eddies stimulate biological production in the ocean, but knowledge of energy transfers to higher trophic levels within eddies remains fragmented and not quantified. Increasing the knowledge base is constrained by the inability of traditional sampling methods to adequately sample biological processes at the spatio-temporal scales at which they occur. By combining satellite and acoustic observations over spatial scales of 10 s of km horizontally and 100 s of m vertically, supported by hydrographical and biological sampling we show that anticyclonic eddies shape distribution and density of marine life from the surface to bathyal depths. Fish feed along density structures of eddies, demonstrating that eddies catalyze energy transfer across trophic levels. Eddies create attractive pelagic habitats, analogous to oases in the desert, for higher trophic level aquatic organisms through enhanced 3-D motion that accumulates and redistributes biomass, contributing to overall bioproduction in the ocean. Integrating multidisciplinary observation methodologies promoted a new understanding of biophysical interaction in mesoscale eddies. Our findings emphasize the impact of eddies on the patchiness of biomass in the sea and demonstrate that they provide rich feeding habitat for higher trophic marine life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Migration
  • Animals
  • Biomass
  • Ecosystem*
  • Fishes / classification
  • Fishes / growth & development*
  • Food Chain*
  • Marine Biology
  • Oceanography
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Population Dynamics
  • Seawater
  • Species Specificity
  • Water Movements*