Articles | Volume 5, issue 1
12 Feb 2013
 | 12 Feb 2013

Distribution of mesozooplankton biomass in the global ocean

R. Moriarty and T. D. O'Brien

Abstract. Mesozooplankton are cosmopolitan within the sunlit layers of the global ocean. They are important in the pelagic food web, having a significant feedback to primary production through their consumption of phytoplankton and microzooplankton. In many regions of the global ocean, they are also the primary contributors to vertical particle flux in the oceans. Through both they affect the biogeochemical cycling of carbon and other nutrients in the oceans. Little, however, is known about their global distribution and biomass. While global maps of mesozooplankton biomass do exist in the literature, they are usually in the form of hand-drawn maps for which the original data associated with these maps are not readily available. The dataset presented in this synthesis has been in development since the late 1990s, is an integral part of the Coastal and Oceanic Plankton Ecology, Production, and Observation Database (COPEPOD), and is now also part of a wider community effort to provide a global picture of carbon biomass data for key plankton functional types, in particular to support the development of marine ecosystem models. A total of 153 163 biomass values were collected, from a variety of sources, for mesozooplankton. Of those 2% were originally recorded as dry mass, 26% as wet mass, 5% as settled volume, and 68% as displacement volume. Using a variety of non-linear biomass conversions from the literature, the data have been converted from their original units to carbon biomass. Depth-integrated values were then used to calculate an estimate of mesozooplankton global biomass. Global epipelagic mesozooplankton biomass, to a depth of 200 m, had a mean of 5.9 μg C L−1, median of 2.7 μg C L−1 and a standard deviation of 10.6 μg C L−1. The global annual average estimate of mesozooplankton in the top 200 m, based on the median value, was 0.19 Pg C. Biomass was highest in the Northern Hemisphere, and there were slight decreases from polar oceans (40–90°) to more temperate regions (15–40°) in both hemispheres. Values in the tropics (15° N–15° S) were intermediate between those at the northern and southern temperate latitudes.

Datasets available at doi:10.1594/PANGAEA.785501.