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Role of ciliates and other microzooplankton in the Irminger Sea (NW Atlantic Ocean)

By David J.S. Montagnes, John T. Allen, Louise Brown, Celia Bulit, Russell Davidson, Sophie Fielding, Mike Heath, N. Penny Holliday, Jens Rasmussen, Richard Sanders, Joanna Waniek and David I. Wilson


This study focuses on a large region of the open ocean where we predict microzooplankton significantly influence foodweb structure over much of the year. The Irminger Sea exhibits low primary production that is generally poor for copepod production; in such waters ciliates and other microzooplankton can contribute significantly to the diets of holo- and mero- mesozooplankton and are major grazers of primary production. Surface plankton samples were collected during an extensive survey, across the basin and along one transect at several depths, over three seasons (winter, spring, summer), but not including the spring bloom. Microzooplankton and phytoplankton samples were fixed with Lugol’s solution and microscopically enumerated for species abundance; biomass was determined from cell volumes. Basin-scale distributions of abundance, biomass, and production were examined by geostatistical and multidimensional scaling methods. The dominance of the < 10 µm phytoplankton suggests that this should be a microzooplankton-dominated food web. Ciliates and heterotrophic dinoflagellates are abundant, in terms of numbers and biomass; heterotrophic dinoflagellates are more abundant than ciliates, but are less dominant in terms of biomass. Using ciliates as a proxy for all microzooplankton we suggest that there are seasonal patterns in occurrence, and there is no basin-scale patchiness related to hydrographic features. Through some simple, albeit “rough” calculations, we suggest that ciliate production may be sufficient to account for the removal of 15-30% of the < 10 µm primary production. If heterotrophic dinoflagellates were included in these estimates, they may be doubled (i.e. 30-60%). We, thus, contend that microzooplankton are major phytoplankton consumers in the system and should be carefully parameterised in models of this region

Year: 2010
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Provided by: e-Prints Soton
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