Scientists Use JeDI to Create World's First Global Jellyfish Map

First Posted: May 15, 2014 11:37 AM EDT

Jellyfish are spawning across the world's oceans, their populations spurred by a changing climate. Now scientists have created the world's first global database of jellyfish records to map these gelatinous creatures with a new initiative called JeDI.

The Jellyfish Database Initiative (JeDI) is the first scientifically-coordinated global-scale database of jellyfish records. Currently, it holds over 476,000 data items on jellyfish and other gelatinous taxa. In this case, the researchers wanted to use it to track future trends and impacts that jellyfish blooms will have on a changing ocean. This is particularly important for understanding how best to curtail these blooms in the future.

"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," said Rob Condon, one of the researchers, in a news release.

Using data from JeDI, the researchers showed that jellyfish and gelatinous zooplankton are present throughout the world's oceans. The largest concentrations of these animals are located in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.

"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," said Rob Condon, one of the researchers, in a news release.

The scientists also discovered the reasons behind these concentrations of jellyfish populations. In the North Atlantic Ocean, dissolved oxygen and sea surface temperature are the primary drivers of jellyfish biomass distribution. This means that as temperatures warm, we may be seeing different population distributions-and possibly more jellyfish blooms.

The findings are a first step when it comes to creating a consistent database that can track jellyfish across the globe. This will be particularly useful when it comes to examining jellyfish trends and possible expansion.

The findings are published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.

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