Carbon budgets of Scotia Sea mesopelagic zooplankton and micronekton communities during austral spring
Zooplankton form an integral component of epi- and mesopelagic ecosystems, and there is a need to better understand their role in ocean biogeochemistry. The export and remineralisation of particulate organic matter at depth plays an important role in controlling atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Pelagic mesozooplankton and micronekton communities may influence the fate of organic matter in a number of ways, including: the consumption of primary producers and export of this material as fast-sinking faecal pellets, and the active flux of carbon by animals undertaking diel vertical migration (DVM) into the mesopelagic. We present day and night vertical biomass profiles of mesozooplankton and micronekton communities in the upper 500 m during three visits to an ocean observatory station (P3) to the NW of South Georgia (Scotia Sea, South Atlantic) in austral spring, alongside estimates of their daily rates of ingestion and respiration throughout the water column. Day and night community biomass estimates were dominated by copepods >330 μm, including the lipid-rich species, Calanoides acutus and Rhincalanus gigas. We found little evidence of synchronised DVM, with only Metridia spp. and Salpa thompsoni showing patterns consistent with migratory behaviour. At depths below 250 m, estimated community carbon ingestion rates exceeded those of metabolic costs, supporting the understanding that food quality in the mesopelagic is relatively poor, and organisms have to consume a large amount of food in order to fulfil their nutritional requirements. By contrast, estimated community rates of ingestion and metabolic costs at shallower depths were approximately balanced, but only when we assumed that the animals were predominantly catabolising lipids (i.e. respiratory quotient = 0.7) and had relatively high absorption efficiencies. Our work demonstrates that it is possible to balance the metabolic budgets of mesopelagic animals to within observational uncertainties, but highlights the need for a better understanding of the physiology of lipid-storing animals and how it influences carbon budgeting in the pelagic.
Authors: Cook, Kathryn B. ORCID record for Kathryn B. Cook, Belcher, Anna ORCID record for Anna Belcher, Juez, Daniel Bondyale, Stowasser, Gabriele ORCID record for Gabriele Stowasser, Fielding, Sophie ORCID record for Sophie Fielding, Saunders, Ryan A. ORCID record for Ryan A. Saunders, Elsafi, Mohamed A., Wolff, George A., Blackbird, Sabena J., Tarling, Geraint A. ORCID record for Geraint A. Tarling, Mayor, Daniel J. ORCID record for Daniel J. Mayor