Document Type


Publication Date



Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


Ocean Science and Engineering


© 2020. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. Zooplankton play an important role in global biogeochemistry, and their secondary production supports valuable fisheries of the world's oceans. Currently, zooplankton standing stocks cannot be estimated using remote sensing techniques. Hence, coupled physical–biogeochemical models (PBMs) provide an important tool for studying zooplankton on regional and global scales. However, evaluating the accuracy of zooplankton biomass estimates from PBMs has been a major challenge due to sparse observations. In this study, we configure a PBM for the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) from 1993 to 2012 and validate the model against an extensive combination of biomass and rate measurements. Spatial variability in a multidecadal database of mesozooplankton biomass for the northern GoM is well resolved by the model with a statistically significant (p < 0.01) correlation of 0.90. Mesozooplankton secondary production for the region averaged 66 ± 8 × 109 kg C yr−1, equivalent to ∼10 % of net primary production (NPP), and ranged from 51 to 82×109 kg C yr−1, with higher secondary production inside cyclonic eddies and substantially reduced secondary production in anticyclonic eddies. Model results from the shelf regions suggest that herbivory is the dominant feeding mode for small mesozooplankton (< 1 mm), whereas larger mesozooplankton are primarily carnivorous. In open-ocean oligotrophic waters, however, both mesozooplankton groups show proportionally greater reliance on heterotrophic protists as a food source. This highlights an important role of microbial and protistan food webs in sustaining mesozooplankton biomass in the GoM, which serves as the primary food source for early life stages of many commercially important fish species, including tuna.

Publication Title






First Page


Last Page


Find in your library