Jellyfish Blooms of the Global Ocean: Magnitude, Causes and Consequences for Marine Food Webs, Carbon Cycling and Socioeconomics

Principal Investigator(s): 

Robert Condon, Carlos Duarte, Monty Graham

Jellyfish are an important and often conspicuous component of oceanic food webs. During the past several decades, dramatic spatial increases and temporal shifts in jellyfish distributions have been reported around the world. Undoubtedly there are associated ecological ramifications such as food web and biogeochemical pathway alterations. Moreover, socio-economic impacts include damage to fisheries, industry and tourism. However, reports have remained local in scope, and scientists agree that a composite understanding of the extent of the problem is still lacking. The bottle-neck is the lack of synthetic analyses across marine ecosystems, due to the present fragmentation of data sources.

This proposal will provide a global synthesis of reports of jellyfish abundance to achieve four main objectives:
(1) to examine the hypothesis of a global expansion of jellyfish blooms, and to explore the possible drivers of this expansion
(2) to examine the effects of jellyfish blooms on the ecosystem, addressing, in particular, carbon cycling and food webs
(3) to note current and future consequences of jellyfish blooms for tourism, industry and fisheries, including ecosystem-based management on regional and global scales
(4) to notify the public at large of the project results

The centerpiece of this project will be a scientifically coordinated global jellyfish and environmental database (called the JEDI, Jellyfish Database Initiative) based on already identified datasets from coastal, estuarine and open-ocean regions. The project will include data acquisition and statistical analyses, global synthesis of trajectory maps of regional jellyfish blooms, generation of conceptual diagrams of the role of jellyfish in biogeochemical cycles and food webs, and discussions relating to the socio-economic ramifications of jellyfish blooms. Anticipated products include a book detailing the biogeochemical, ecological and societal aspects of jellyfish blooms; and a multi-lingual website and blog which will include the interactive jellyfish database as well as educational information on jellyfish blooms.

-- See The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Jellywatch, a site for recording sightings of jellyfish and other marine organisms.

-- This research project was featured at Jellyfish Rock: Reaching Out to Community & Kids, an NCEAS-sponsored fun & informative event for the whole family!

-- The NCEAS jellyfish group was also featured in an article on Live Science.

More information about this research project, participants, and publications.