Fronts can be incorporated into current climate and fisheries models to account for small-scale interactions in fishery production and cycling of elements such as carbon and nitrogen in the ocean.
By applying a fundamental technique from fluid dynamics to an ecosystem model, researchers found that fronts increase total ecosystem biomass, among other things.
"The biological effects have not been looked at before, just the physics, so no one has really tried to incorporate this method into large ecosystem models," said Brock Woodson, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia.
Woodson focused on ocean fronts because their flow patterns create convergent zones that aggregate food and resources in the ocean.
The more production there is, the more that can be taken out of the ocean without having the biomass negatively affected, or go down.
This study incorporated fronts into past models, showing how they channel nutrients in the system, aggregating food for important fishes and marine mammals.
Although overfishing is something to be cautious and aware of, ocean fronts give these species the ability to survive and thrive because of the nutrients they provide.
"Fronts cascade up the system and fishing cascades down the system," Woodson noted.
The study appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences