Mesozooplankton community structure and grazing impact in the polar frontal zone of the Southern Ocean

by Bernard, K.S.

Abstract (Summary)
Mesozooplankton community structure and grazing impact in the Polar Frontal Zone (PFZ) of the Southern Ocean were investigated during two cruises of the South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP), the Marion Offshore Ecosystem Variability Study I & II (MOEVS).

During the first cruise (MOEVS I), a meso-scale oceanographic grid survey was conducted in the upstream region of the Prince Edward Islands (PEI) in austral autumn (April) 2001. Mesozooplankton samples, collected using a Bongo net (fitted with 200 and 300µm mesh nets) at depths between 200 and 300 m, were separated into three size fractions: 200-500 µm; 500-1000 µm; 1000-2000 µm by reverse filtration. Total surface (depth <5 m) chlorophyll-a (chl-a) concentration (measured fluorometrically) during the study ranged between 0.11 and 0.34 µg 1^(-1) and was always dominated by picophytoplankton (<2.0 µm). Total mesozooplankton abundance and biomass during the survey ranged between 49 and 1512 ind. m^(-3) and between 0.7 and 25 mg Dwt. m^(-3), respectively. Throughout the survey, the 200-500 µm class numerically dominated the mesozooplankton community, comprising an average of ~ 69% (SD = ± 12.3%). The dominant species in the 200-500 µm size fraction were the copepods Oithona similis, Calanus simillimus and Metridia lucens and the pteropod, Limacina retroversa. However, in terms of biomass, the 1000-2000 µm group was predominant, with dry weight values constituting an average of ~ 66% (SD = ± 10.2%). Biomass was dominated by carnivorous zooplankton, particularly the euphausiids, Euphausia vallentini and Thysanoessa vicina and the chaetognaths, Sagitta gazellae and Eukrohnia hamata. Three distinct groupings of stations were identified by multivariate analysis. The different station groupings identified reflect changes in the relative contributions of the rather than different species assemblages.

During the second cruise (MOEVS II), conducted in April 2002 (austral autumn), mesozooplankton community structure and grazing impact were investigated at 13 stations in the west Indian sector of the PFZ. Total integrated chl-a biomass ranged between 11.17 and 28.34 mg chl-a m^(-2) and was always dominated by nano- and picophytoplankton (<20 µm). Throughout the study, small copepods, mainly Oithona similis and Ctenocalanus vanus, numerically dominated the mesozooplankton community comprising up to 85% (range 30 to 85%) of the total abundance. Grazing activity of the four most abundant copepods (O. similis, C. vanus, Calanus simillimus and Clausocalanus spp.), which comprised up to 93% of total mesozooplankton abundance, was investigated using the gut fluorescent technique. Results of gut fluorescence analyses indicated that C. simillimus, Clausocalanus spp. and Ctenocalanus vanus exhibited diel variability in gut pigments, with maximum values at various stages of the night. In contrast, O. similis did not demonstrate diel variation in gut pigment contents. Ingestion rates of the four copepods ranged from 23.23 to 1462.02 ng (pigm.) ind^(-1) day^(-1), depending on the species. The combined grazing impact of the four copepods, ranged between 1 and 36% of the phytoplankton standing stock per day, with the highest daily impact (~ 35.86%) occurring at stations in the vicinity of the Antarctic Polar Front. Among the copepods, O. similis and C. vanus were generally the most important consumers of phytoplankton biomass; together they were responsible for up to 89% (range 15 to 89%) of the total daily grazing impact. Carbon specific ingestion rates of the copepods varied between 42 and 320% body carbon per day, depending on the species.

The study highlights the importance of small copepods in terms of both their significant contribution to total mesozooplankton numbers and their grazing impact on the phytoplankton standing stocks in the PFZ during austral autumn.

Bibliographical Information:


School:Rhodes University

School Location:South Africa

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:zoology entomology


Date of Publication:01/01/2003

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