Plankton is the main actor in the largest terrestrial biome and the modulator of processes related to key ecosystem services, such as climate and food supply through the carbon cycle. Current gaps in the knowledge of its biology and ecology are a serious limitation to the assessment of its status and dynamics; the latter are a major source of uncertainty in current predictive models of ocean ecosystem services in the presence of anthropogenic stressors. Many of the current limitations come from a terrestrial bias in theoretical frameworks.
Indeed, pelagic plankton communities are in highly dynamic equilibrium under physical and chemical constraints and feedbacks, an equilibrium that also takes into account the stochasticity inherent in many processes (from gene expression to nutrient availability and encounter rates). To understand their structure and functioning, therefore, we must adopt multidisciplinary approaches that allow us to make simultaneous sense of three complex coupled systems, consisting of the turbulent fluids that make up the atmosphere and oceans, the internal biology of organisms and the network of their interactions.
We thus propose to combine remote sensing with extensive in situ observations, state-of-the-art meta-omics approaches with systems biology, and theoretical ecology with artificial intelligence to advance theories, models and ecological paradigms to promote the seascape as a new conceptual framework.
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