Plankton diversity constitutes the backbone of many processes that determine the health of marine habitats (e.g., food web dynamics, nutrient recycling) and ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and fisheries. Though plankton diversity is defined at multiple scales (i.e., genetic, morphological, functional) the question of how it originates remains open. 

Here we address one key question: can existing data identify the drivers of plankton’s diversity in the Atlantic?  To this end, we focus on taxonomical and functional diversity. The first reflects the stability of a community and the latter can scale down the taxonomic complexity and centre on the species functionality to ecosystem processes and services.  

Following observations from terrestrial ecosystems, we hypothesize that low latitudes have higher biological diversity but lower functional diversity and that the difference between those two is decreasing with the latitude increase. This is because in low latitudes more species that share the same functionality coexist.  

With the data, we aim to:

  1. Define functional and biological diversity indexes for the Atlantic Ocean 
  2. Quantify how the functional and biological indexes change with latitude 
  3. Correlate the indexes with abiotic parameters. Does functional and biological diversity show the same patterns? If not why?  

With this project, we hope to provide a mechanistic understanding of the observed diversity patterns, identify directions for quantitative research and data limitations and provide a data analysis that can be used in models to advance our projections for the ecological redundancy and ecosystem services of future oceans.


The Challenge



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