Research Topic

Physical Drivers of Biogeographical Shifts in the Northeastern Atlantic – and Adjacent Shelves

About this Research Topic

The subpolar North Atlantic Ocean is characterized by its rich ecosystems – rapid spring blooms, vast energy-rich zooplankton stocks, huge migratory pelagic fish stocks, large seabird colonies and highly productive demersal fish stocks on the shelves surrounding the oceanic basins.
The strong atmospheric jet stream traversing subpolar waters induces cooling and deep water formation and this fuels a huge volume of water with nutrients - every winter. These drivers control the subpolar gyre - a large body of cold and low-saline subarctic water, which circulates counterclockwise south of Iceland and Greenland. These processes are intrinsically linked to the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) - a principal driver of the Earth’s climate system.

A growing body of literature has illustrated how the size and circulation intensity of the subpolar gyre regulates e.g. temperature, salinity, nutrient and phytoplankton concentration, abundances of key zooplankton species, stock size, spawning distribution and feeding migration route of pelagic fish stocks (blue whiting, mackerel and herring), biomass of demersal fish stocks, breeding success of seabirds and the annual number of pilot whales beached in the Faroe Islands back several centuries.

Studies have furthermore revealed that temperatures in the subpolar North Atlantic - and thus the strong ocean dynamics which drive changes in this key parameter – is potentially predictable, with a time horizon of 1-3 years. This underscores that improving our understanding of the clear bio-physical couplings in these waters might result in socio-economic benefits.

Large-scale indices (e.g. the gyre index) have been used to collectively discuss key trends in several components of this vast pelagic complex. In addition, it has become evident that the adjacent shelf ecosystems should not be studied separately, but rather integrated into a larger perspective, which includes the oceanic waters connecting these shelves. Marked ecosystem variability reverberates in the national economies of fishery-dependent societies in the northeastern Atlantic. Since the northeastern Atlantic is ‘the cradle’ of physical oceanography, this region also provides many of the longest physical and biological records available.

Emerging evidence shows that the Norwegian Sea gyre impacts the Nordic Seas in a similar way as the subpolar gyre influences the North Atlantic.

This multidisciplinary Research Topic will bring together research articles under themes related to physical drivers of biogeographical shifts in the northeastern Atlantic and adjacent shelves, e.g.:

• Oceanic and shelf systems separately and/or the interplay between these domains
• Single species or multi-species (food chain) interactions
• Novel methods and approaches for characterizing ocean-shelf biogeography
• Mini-reviews highlighting key knowledge gaps in our current understanding of physical drivers of biogeography and ocean-shelf dynamics
• Natural climate variability and/or future climate change
• Potential socio-economic impacts


Keywords: climate variability, ecosystem variability, northeastern Atlantic, predictability, ocean-shelf interaction


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

The subpolar North Atlantic Ocean is characterized by its rich ecosystems – rapid spring blooms, vast energy-rich zooplankton stocks, huge migratory pelagic fish stocks, large seabird colonies and highly productive demersal fish stocks on the shelves surrounding the oceanic basins.
The strong atmospheric jet stream traversing subpolar waters induces cooling and deep water formation and this fuels a huge volume of water with nutrients - every winter. These drivers control the subpolar gyre - a large body of cold and low-saline subarctic water, which circulates counterclockwise south of Iceland and Greenland. These processes are intrinsically linked to the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) - a principal driver of the Earth’s climate system.

A growing body of literature has illustrated how the size and circulation intensity of the subpolar gyre regulates e.g. temperature, salinity, nutrient and phytoplankton concentration, abundances of key zooplankton species, stock size, spawning distribution and feeding migration route of pelagic fish stocks (blue whiting, mackerel and herring), biomass of demersal fish stocks, breeding success of seabirds and the annual number of pilot whales beached in the Faroe Islands back several centuries.

Studies have furthermore revealed that temperatures in the subpolar North Atlantic - and thus the strong ocean dynamics which drive changes in this key parameter – is potentially predictable, with a time horizon of 1-3 years. This underscores that improving our understanding of the clear bio-physical couplings in these waters might result in socio-economic benefits.

Large-scale indices (e.g. the gyre index) have been used to collectively discuss key trends in several components of this vast pelagic complex. In addition, it has become evident that the adjacent shelf ecosystems should not be studied separately, but rather integrated into a larger perspective, which includes the oceanic waters connecting these shelves. Marked ecosystem variability reverberates in the national economies of fishery-dependent societies in the northeastern Atlantic. Since the northeastern Atlantic is ‘the cradle’ of physical oceanography, this region also provides many of the longest physical and biological records available.

Emerging evidence shows that the Norwegian Sea gyre impacts the Nordic Seas in a similar way as the subpolar gyre influences the North Atlantic.

This multidisciplinary Research Topic will bring together research articles under themes related to physical drivers of biogeographical shifts in the northeastern Atlantic and adjacent shelves, e.g.:

• Oceanic and shelf systems separately and/or the interplay between these domains
• Single species or multi-species (food chain) interactions
• Novel methods and approaches for characterizing ocean-shelf biogeography
• Mini-reviews highlighting key knowledge gaps in our current understanding of physical drivers of biogeography and ocean-shelf dynamics
• Natural climate variability and/or future climate change
• Potential socio-economic impacts


Keywords: climate variability, ecosystem variability, northeastern Atlantic, predictability, ocean-shelf interaction


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

15 April 2021 Abstract
18 September 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

15 April 2021 Abstract
18 September 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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