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  1. Abstract

    Marine zooplankton are key players in pelagic food webs, central links in ecosystem function, useful indicators of water masses, and rapid responders to environmental variation and climate change. Characterization of biodiversity of the marine zooplankton assemblage is complicated by many factors, including systematic complexity of the assemblage, with numerous rare and cryptic species, and high local-to-global ratios of species diversity. The papers in this themed article set document important advances in molecular protocols and procedures, integration with morphological taxonomic identifications, and quantitative analyses (abundance and biomass). The studies highlight several overarching conclusions and recommendations. A primary issue is the continuing need for morphological taxonomic experts, who can identify species and provide voucher specimens for reference sequence databases, which are essential for biodiversity analyses based on molecular approaches. The power of metabarcoding using multi-gene markers, including both DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) and RNA (Ribonucleic Acid)templates, is demonstrated. An essential goal is the accurate identification of species across all taxonomic groups of marine zooplankton, with particular concern for detection of rare, cryptic, and invasive species. Applications of molecular approaches include analysis of trophic relationships by metabarcoding of gut contents, as well as investigation of the underlying ecological and evolutionary forces driving zooplankton diversity and structure.

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  2. null (Ed.)
  3. Abstract

    Characterization of species diversity of zooplankton is key to understanding, assessing, and predicting the function and future of pelagic ecosystems throughout the global ocean. The marine zooplankton assemblage, including only metazoans, is highly diverse and taxonomically complex, with an estimated ~28,000 species of 41 major taxonomic groups. This review provides a comprehensive summary of DNA sequences for the barcode region of mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (COI) for identified specimens. The foundation of this summary is the MetaZooGene Barcode Atlas and Database (MZGdb), a new open-access data and metadata portal that is linked to NCBI GenBank and BOLD data repositories. The MZGdb provides enhanced quality control and tools for assembling COI reference sequence databases that are specific to selected taxonomic groups and/or ocean regions, with associated metadata (e.g., collection georeferencing, verification of species identification, molecular protocols), and tools for statistical analysis, mapping, and visualization. To date, over 150,000 COI sequences for ~ 5600 described species of marine metazoan plankton (including holo- and meroplankton) are available via the MZGdb portal. This review uses the MZGdb as a resource for summaries of COI barcode data and metadata for important taxonomic groups of marine zooplankton and selected regions, including the North Atlantic, Arctic, North Pacific, and Southern Oceans. The MZGdb is designed to provide a foundation for analysis of species diversity of marine zooplankton based on DNA barcoding and metabarcoding for assessment of marine ecosystems and rapid detection of the impacts of climate change.

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  4. null (Ed.)
    Continental slopes – steep regions between the shelf break and abyssal ocean – play key roles in the climatology and ecology of the Arctic Ocean. Here, through review and synthesis, we find that the narrow slope regions contribute to ecosystem functioning disproportionately to the size of the habitat area (∼6% of total Arctic Ocean area). Driven by inflows of sub-Arctic waters and steered by topography, boundary currents transport boreal properties and particle loads from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans along-slope, thus creating both along and cross-slope connectivity gradients in water mass properties and biomass. Drainage of dense, saline shelf water and material within these, and contributions of river and meltwater also shape the characteristics of the slope domain. These and other properties led us to distinguish upper and lower slope domains; the upper slope (shelf break to ∼800 m) is characterized by stronger currents, warmer sub-surface temperatures, and higher biomass across several trophic levels (especially near inflow areas). In contrast, the lower slope has slower-moving currents, is cooler, and exhibits lower vertical carbon flux and biomass. Distinct zonation of zooplankton, benthic and fish communities result from these differences. Slopes display varying levels of system connectivity: (1) along-slope through property and material transport in boundary currents, (2) cross-slope through upwelling of warm and nutrient rich water and down-welling of dense water and organic rich matter, and (3) vertically through shear and mixing. Slope dynamics also generate separating functions through (1) along-slope and across-slope fronts concentrating biological activity, and (2) vertical gradients in the water column and at the seafloor that maintain distinct physical structure and community turnover. At the upper slope, climatic change is manifested in sea-ice retreat, increased heat and mass transport by sub-Arctic inflows, surface warming, and altered vertical stratification, while the lower slope has yet to display evidence of change. Model projections suggest that ongoing physical changes will enhance primary production at the upper slope, with suspected enhancing effects for consumers. We recommend Pan-Arctic monitoring efforts of slopes given that many signals of climate change appear there first and are then transmitted along the slope domain. 
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