Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
Abstract The MESOBIO programme investigated mesoscale dynamics using an integrated ecosystem approach, linking physical and biogeochemical processes with different trophic levels. Observation and modeling were used in combination to explain the main processes occurring in the mesoscale eddy field. The particular shape of the Mozambique Channel, composed of two basins interconnected through a narrow zone, favours the generation of mesoscale eddies and increases the opportunity for eddy-shelf interactions. Phytoplankton abundance peaked in areas of nutrient enrichment that are often found in the core of cyclonic eddies, as well as on the continental shelf. Grazers in zooplankton communities exhibited high biovolume in cyclonic eddies, but their abundance was lower in fronts and divergence zones, with lowest biovolume in anticyclones. Biovolume was highest at shelf stations, but very variable and similar to phytoplankton. Age of eddies, their subsequent maturation stage and the dynamics of the eddy field played a major role effecting zooplankton abundance. Micronekton presented abundance patterns coherent with zooplankton distribution, however this was only demonstrated by acoustic methods, whereas mid-water trawl collection and predators stomach contents (predators being used as biological samplers) did not reveal significant relationships with mesoscale features. For upper trophic levels, the average density of foraging seabirds was lowest in anticyclones, highest in cyclones and at intermediate levels in divergence, shelf and frontal zones. However, multifaceted behavioral responses were observed in such a highly variable environment. Swordfish was clearly associated with divergence zones, and to a lesser extent with fronts, suggesting that the higher density in divergences was related to the presence of its main prey, essentially large squids. Although tunas tended to be more abundant in areas with weak geostrophic currents, their relationship to mesoscale features was not straightforward as adult tunas caught by longline have the ability to explore different foraging habitats over a broad range of depths. Several suggestions for advancing eddy-related research from the current state of knowledge are proposed in the second part of the paper.