Mesozooplankton community structure in the vicinity of the Prince Edward Islands (Southern Ocean) 37°50'E, 46°45'S
Abstract (Summary)Mesozooplankton community structure in the vicinity of the Prince Edward Islands (PEIs) was investigated during six surveys conducted in late austral summer (April/May), 1996 to 1999. Each year zooplankton samples were collected with a bongo net (300 µm mesh) at stations upstream (west), between and downstream (east) of the islands. Chlorophyll a concentrations were determined fluorometrically, corresponding with each net tow. The positions of the Subantarctic Front (SAF) and the Antarctic Polar Front (APF), in relation to the islands in the upstream region, were determined by a line of CTD and/or XBT stations. Both the SAF and the APF were characterised by a high degree of meridional variation in position. Changes in position of the fronts were shown to occur very rapidly. In 1999 the APF moved southwards by ~40nm and the SAF northwards by ~60nm in a period of two weeks, while in 1996 the SAF appeared to move ~120nm northwards in a two week period. The positions of the SAF and APF appeared to have a significant impact on phytoplankton biomass in the vicinity of the PEIs, through the alteration of local flow dynamics. Water retention in 1996, associated with the location of the SAF and APF far to the north and south of the PEIs respectively, corresponded with high chlorophyll a concentrations in the inter-island region (reaching 1.54 mg.m^(-3)). When the fronts were close to the islands, in 1997 and 1999, and a flow through environment existed, chlorophyll a concentrations in the inter-island region were comparatively low. Although biomass enhancement was only observed at the SAF in 1996, phytoplankton size structure in 1999 indicated that, when close to the PEIs, frontal production may be transported to the island system. This is potentially an important source of allochthonous input into the island system. Zooplankton assemblages were a mix of sub-Antarctic and Antarctic communities, with a weak presence of sub-tropical species. Cluster analysis showed that during each survey the region in the vicinity of the PEIs was divided into different, spatially separated zooplankton communities, associated with water masses of different origins. These communities were identified by variations in the abundance and biomass of species rather than variation in species composition and, in general, there was a relatively high degree of similarity both within and between surveys. Inter-annual community analysis revealed that, in many cases, there was greater similarity between communities from different years than communities within years, indicating that short-term variability exceeded inter-annual variability. Multiple regression analysis showed that the major correlate with zooplankton community structure during all surveys was sea temperature, accounting for as much as 77% of the variation in community structure. Temperature was indicative of the relative contribution of sub-Antarctic and Antarctic communities, with low temperatures being characterised by an increased predominance of Antarctic communities and vice versa. The differentiation between sub-Antarctic and Antarctic waters, and their respective communities, was particularly pronounced when the SAF and APF were in close proximity to the islands. Surface salinity and sounding had limited effect on community structure. The affect of sounding was intrinsically related to zooplankton interaction with the island ecosystem. Predation by the islands' land based predators and benthic fish appears to decrease zooplankton biomass over the island shelf, particularly the macrozooplankton size fraction. However, this may only be an important factor under conditions of water retention when replenishment of zooplankton stocks is low. The low densities of many macrozooplankton species, and other deep migrators, on the island shelf may be due to their limited advection onto shallow topography. By contrast, there are indications that zooplankton species occurring at shallower depths may be concentrated in the inter-island region by mesoscale flow patterns. Analysis of the population structure of the copepod Calanus simillimus showed that this species occurred at different stages in its life cycle during different years, even though sampling took place in the same calendar months, indicating that there was inter-annual variation in the timing of the biological season. Differences in the population structure of species, and consequently their contribution to abundance and biomass, may therefore have been an important contributor to inter-annual variation in community structure. Evidence is provided for a long-term trend of southward movement of the SAF. This may have a significant affect on the PEI ecosystem, increasing the proportion of allochthonous input and altering the tropho-dynamics of the island ecosystem.
School Location:South Africa
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:01/01/2000