Respiration rates and active carbon flux of mesopelagic fishes (Family Myctophidae) in the Scotia Sea, Southern Ocean
Mesopelagic fish have recently been highlighted as an important, but poorly studied component of marine ecosystems, particularly regarding their role in the marine pelagic food webs and biogeochemical cycles. Myctophids (Family Myctophidae) are one of the most biomass-dominant groups of mesopelagic fishes, and their large vertical migrations provide means of rapid transfer of carbon to the deep ocean where it can be sequestered for centuries or more. In this study, we develop a simple regression for the respiration rate of myctophid fish using literature-based wet mass and habitat temperature data. We apply this regression to net haul data collected across the Scotia-Weddell sector of the Southern Ocean to estimate respiration rates of the biomass-dominant myctophid species. Electrona carlsbergi, Electrona antarctica, and Gymnoscopelus braueri made a high contribution (up to 85%) to total myctophid respiration. Despite the lower temperatures of the southern Scotia Sea (-1.46 to 0.95°C), total respiration here was as high (reaching 1.1 mg C m-2 d-1) as in the warmer waters of the mid and northern Scotia Sea. The maximum respiratory carbon flux of the vertically migrating community was 0.05 to 0.28 mg C m-2 d-1, equivalent to up to 47% of the gravitational particulate organic carbon flux in some parts of the Scotia-Weddell region. Our study provides the first baseline estimates of respiration rates and carbon flux of myctophids in the Southern Ocean. However, direct measurements of myctophid respiration, and of mesopelagic fish generally, are needed to constrain these estimates further and incorporate these fluxes into carbon budgets.
Authors: Belcher, Anna, Saunders, Ryan A., Tarling, Geraint A.