A Wall of Mouths

Zooplankton is the link between the aquatic pastures of the oceans and fisheries. A novel synthesis of the size structure of zooplankton communities, combined with phytoplankton estimates from satellites, will reveal critical ecosystem processes on a global scale; such as the export of carbon and fisheries production.

This will inform environmental assessments and ecosystem sustainability, from water quality problems to fisheries, including the viability of super-trawlers in Australian waters.

The trophic links between phytoplankton, zooplankton and fisheries are unknown. The size frequency distribution of zooplankton (size spectrum) is an innovative method for estimating their growth, predation and production as food for fish. Analysis of a global synthesis of zooplankton size distributions from tropical to polar environments will reveal these vital rates of pelagic ecosystems.

The project will develop innovative numerical methods to understand the dynamics, carbon export, and trophic structure of zooplankton.

The zooplankton rates will reveal, for the first time, the link between phytoplankton and fisheries, and will significantly improve ecosystem models and global assessments of environmental change.

– Professor Iain Suthers, University of New South Wales.