Competition between large jellyfish and forage fish for zooplankton prey is both a possible cause of jellyfish increases and a concern for the management of marine ecosystems and fisheries. Identifying principal factors affecting this competition is therefore important for marine management, but the lack of both good quality data and a robust theoretical framework have prevented general global analyses. Here, we present a general mechanistic food web model that considers fundamental differences in feeding modes and predation pressure between fish and jellyfish. The model predicts forage fish dominance at low primary production, and a shift towards jellyfish with increasing productivity, turbidity and fishing. We present an index of global ecosystem susceptibility to shifts in fish–jellyfish dominance that compares well with data on jellyfish distributions and trends. The results are a step towards better understanding the processes that govern jellyfish occurrences globally and highlight the advantage of considering feeding traits in ecosystem models.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3522180.
- Received September 2, 2016.
- Accepted October 17, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.