The effects of variable front persistence and intensity on mesopelagic fish communities: a comparison of three fronts in the California Current Ecosystem

Amanda Nicole Netburn and J. Anthony Koslow, University of California San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States
Although the strong physical gradients at fronts are primarily realized in the epipelagic, the biological impacts of frontal ecosystems can extend into mesopelagic waters. In 2008, Lara-Lopez et al. (2012) observed a significant shift in total biomass and community composition of migrating mesopelagic fishes at a strong persistent front off of the Pt. Conception area of the southern California Current Ecosystem. Through the California Current Ecosystem Long-Term Ecological Research Program, two additional intensive sampling cruises have been conducted on frontal systems in the general region. In 2011 and 2012, paired day and night midwater Matsuda-Oozeki-Hu trawls were conducted at stations located on either side of the fronts and at the fronts themselves, a suite of concurrent observations of the physical environment measured, and lower trophic levels sampled. Using satellite imagery, we estimate front duration of each of the 2008, 2011, and 2012 fronts, and investigate changes to the relative abundance and community composition across these systems, comparing the resolved patterns in 2011 and 2012 to those published from 2008. Results of this work will help address the questions: (1) What are the timescales required for front presence to impact mesopelagic fish communities? (2) Do different types of frontal systems (e.g., an eddy front vs. a “classic” front) result in different patterns of mesopelagic fish abundance and community composition? These answers will provide insight into the mechanisms of accumulation of fishes at fronts. As many mesopelagic fishes are important forage species for oceanic predators, understanding their response to the high productivity frontal systems is key to understanding ecosystem-wide impacts of fronts.