Influence of cyclonic and anticyclonic eddies on plankton in the southeastern Mediterranean Sea during late summertime

Natalia Belkin, Tamar Guy-Haim, Maxim Rubin-Blum, Ayah Lazar, Guy Sisma-Ventura, Rainer Kiko, Arseniy R. Morov, Tal Ozer, Isaac Gertman, Barak Herut, Eyal Rahav

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Planktonic food webs were studied contemporaneously in a mesoscale cyclonic (upwelling, ∼ 13 months old) and an anticyclonic (downwelling, ∼ 2 months old) eddy as well as in an uninfluenced background situation in the oligotrophic southeastern Mediterranean Sea (SEMS) during late summer 2018. We show that integrated nutrient concentrations were higher in the cyclone compared to the anticyclone or the background stations by 2-13-fold. Concurrently, Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus were the dominant autotrophs abundance-wise in the oligotrophic anticyclone (∼ 300 × 1010 cells m-2). In the cyclone, functional groups such as dinoflagellates, Prymnesiophyceae and Ochrophyta contributed substantially to the total phytoplankton abundance (∼ 14 × 1010 cells m-2), which was ∼ 65 % lower at the anticyclone and background stations (∼ 5 × 1010 cells m-2). Primary production was highest in the cyclonic eddy (191 mg C m-2 d-1) and 2-5-fold lower outside the eddy area. Heterotrophic prokaryotic cell-specific activity was highest in the cyclone (∼ 10 fg C cell-1 d-1), while the least productive cells were found in the anticyclone (4 fg C cell-1 d-1). Total zooplankton biomass in the upper 300 m was 10-fold higher in the cyclone compared with the anticyclone or background stations (1337 vs. 112-133 mg Cm-2, respectively). Copepod diversity was much higher in the cyclone (44 species), compared to the anticyclone (6 small-size species). Our results highlight that cyclonic and anticyclonic eddies show significantly different community structure and food-web dynamics in oligotrophic environments, with cyclones representing productive oases in the marine desert of the SEMS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-715
Number of pages23
JournalOcean Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 13 May 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Natalia Belkin et al.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Paleontology


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