Carbon budgets of the mesopelagic zone are poorly constrained, highlighting our lack of understanding of the biota that inhabit this environment and their role in the cycling and sequestering of carbon in the deep ocean. A simple food web model of the mesopelagic zone is presented that traces the turnover of particulate organic carbon (POC), supplied as sinking detritus, through to its respiration by the biota via three pathways: colonization and solubilization of detritus by attached bacteria, production of free-living bacteria following losses of solubilization products during particle degradation, and consumption by detritivorous zooplankton. The relative consumption of detritus by attached bacteria was initially specified as 76%, with the remaining 24% by detritivores. Highlighting an asymmetry between consumption and respiration, the resulting predicted share of total respiration due to bacteria was 84.7%, with detritivores accounting for just 6.6% (with 6.5% and 2.2% by bacterivores and higher zooplankton, respectively). Bacteria thus dominated respiration and thereby acted as the principal sink for POC supplied to the mesopelagic zone, whereas zooplankton mainly recycled carbon back to the base of the food web as detritus or dissolved organic carbon rather than respiring it to CO2. Estimates of respiration are therefore not necessarily a reliable indicator of the relative roles of bacteria and zooplankton in consuming and processing POC in the mesopelagic zone of the ocean. The work highlighted a number of major unknowns, including how little we know in general about the dynamics and metabolic budgets of bacteria and zooplankton that inhabit the mesopelagic zone and, specifically, the degree to which the solubilized products of enzymatic hydrolysis of POC by attached bacteria are lost to the surrounding water, the magnitude and factors responsible for bacterial growth efficiency, the role of microbes in the nutrition of detritivores, and the recycling processes by which zooplankton return what they consume to the food web as detritus and dissolved organic matter
To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.