Database tracks 200 years of jellyfish

The database currently includes more than 476,000 data items on jellyfish and other gelatinous taxa. (Credit: Hubert Figuière/Flickr)

Scientists have created the world’s first global database that maps two centuries of jellyfish populations in the world’s oceans.

Debate regarding future trends and effects of jellyfish and jellyfish blooms is hampered by a lack of information about jellyfish biomass and distribution from which to compare.

The Jellyfish Database Initiative, or JeDI, maps jellyfish biomass in the world’s oceans and explores the underlying environmental causes that drive their patterns of distribution.

The database currently includes more than 476,000 data items on jellyfish and other gelatinous taxa. JeDI has been designed as an open‐access database for anyone to use as a current and future research tool and a data hub for general information on jellyfish populations.

“With this resource, anyone can use JeDI to address questions about the spatial and temporal extent of jellyfish populations at local, regional, and global scales, and the potential implications for ecosystem services and biogeochemical processes,” says Rob Condon of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Data from JeDI shows that jellyfish and other gelatinous zooplankton are present throughout the world’s oceans, with the greatest concentrations in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. In the North Atlantic Ocean, dissolved oxygen and sea surface temperature are the principal drivers of jellyfish distribution.

The new study, published in Global Ecology and Biogeography, complements the findings of a 2013 study, in which global jellyfish populations were shown to exhibit fluctuations over multi-decade time-scales centered round a baseline.

“If jellyfish biomass does increase in the future, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, this may influence the abundance and biodiversity of zooplankton and phytoplankton, having a knock-on effect on ecosystem functioning, biogeochemical cycling, and fish biomass,” Condon says.

JeDI is housed at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in the US, a research center affiliated with the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Cathy Lucas, a marine biologist at the University of Southampton, is lead author on the study.

Source: University of Southampton