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This paper forms part of a broader overview of biodiversity of marine life in the Gulf of Maine area (GoMA), facilitated by the GoMA Census of Marine Life program. It synthesizes current data on species diversity of zooplankton and pelagic nekton, including compilation of observed species and descriptions of seasonal, regional and cross-shelf diversity patterns. Zooplankton diversity in the GoMA is characterized by spatial differences in community composition among the neritic environment, the coastal shelf, and deep offshore waters. Copepod diversity increased with depth on the Scotian Shelf. On the coastal shelf of the western Gulf of Maine, the number of higher-level taxonomic groups declined with distance from shore, reflecting more nearshore meroplankton. Copepod diversity increased in late summer, and interdecadal diversity shifts were observed, including a period of higher diversity in the 1990s. Changes in species diversity were greatest on interannual scales, intermediate on seasonal scales, and smallest across regions, in contrast to abundance patterns, suggesting that zooplankton diversity may be a more sensitive indicator of ecosystem response to interannual climate variation than zooplankton abundance. Local factors such as bathymetry, proximity of the coast, and advection probably drive zooplankton and pelagic nekton diversity patterns in the GoMA, while ocean-basin-scale diversity patterns probably contribute to the increase in diversity at the Scotian Shelf break, a zone of mixing between the cold-temperate community of the shelf and the warm-water community offshore. Pressing research needs include establishment of a comprehensive system for observing change in zooplankton and pelagic nekton diversity, enhanced observations of “underknown” but important functional components of the ecosystem, population and metapopulation studies, and development of analytical modeling tools to enhance understanding of diversity patterns and drivers. Ultimately, sustained observations and modeling analysis of biodiversity must be effectively communicated to managers and incorporated into ecosystem approaches for management of GoMA living marine resources.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication 1.0 License.