Pelagic community responses to a deep-water front in the California Current Ecosystem: The CCE A-Front Study
In October 2008, we investigated pelagic community composition and biomass, from bacteria to fish, across a sharp frontal gradient overlying deep waters south of Point Conception, California. This north-south gradient, which we called A-Front, was formed by eastward flow of the California Current and separated cooler mesotrophic waters of coastal upwelling origin to the north from warmer oligotrophic waters to the south. Plankton biomass and phytoplankton growth rates were 2-3 times greater on the northern side, and primary production rates were elevated 5 fold to the north. Compared to either of the adjacent waters, the frontal interface was strongly enriched and uniquely defined by a subsurface bloom of large diatoms, elevated concentrations of suspension-feeding zooplankton, high bioacoustical estimates of pelagic fish, and enhanced bacterial production and phytoplankton biomass and photosynthetic potential. In emerging studies of ocean seascapes, such habitats, though small in areal extent, may contribute disproportionately and importantly to regional productivity, nutrient cycling, carbon fluxes and trophic ecology.