The summertime plankton community at South Georgia (Southern Ocean): comparing the historical (1926/27) and modern (post 1995) records.

The earliest comprehensive plankton sampling programme in the Southern Ocean was 32 undertaken during the early part of last century by Discovery Investigations to gain a 33 greater scientific understanding of whale stocks and their summer feeding grounds. An 34 initial survey was carried out around South Georgia during December 1926 and January 35 1927 to describe the distribution of plankton during the summer, and to serve as a 36 baseline against which to compare future surveys. We have reanalysed phytoplankton and 37 zooplankton data from this survey and elucidated patterns of community distribution and 38 compared them with our recent understanding of the ecosystem based on contemporary 39 data. Analysis of Discovery data identified five groups of stations with characteristic 40 phytoplankton communities which were almost entirely consistent with the original 41 analysis conducted by Hardy and Gunther (1935). Major groupings were located at the 42 western end of the island and over the northern shelf where Corethron spp. were 43 dominant, and to the south and east where a more diverse flora included high abundances 44 of Nitzschia seriata. Major zooplankton-station groupings were located over the inner 45 shelf which was characterised by a high abundance of Drepanopus forcipatus and in 46 oceanic water >500 m deep that were dominated by Foraminifera, Oithona spp., 47 Ctenocalanus vanus, and Calanoides acutus. Stations along the middle and outer shelf 48 regions to the north and west, were characterised by low overall abundance. There was 49 some evidence that groupings of stations to the north of the island originated in different 50 water masses on either side of the Southern Antarctic Circumpolar Current Front, the 51 major frontal system in the deep ocean close to South Georgia. However, transect lines 52 during 1926/27 did not extend far enough offshore to sample this frontal region 53 3 adequately. Interannual variability of zooplankton abundance was assessed from stations 54 which were sampled repeatedly during 7 recent British Antarctic Survey cruises (1995-55 2005) to the region and following taxonomic harmonization and numerical 56 standardization (ind. m-3), a subset of 45 taxonomic categories of zooplankton (species 57 and higher taxa) from 1926/27, were compared with similar data obtained during the 58 BAS cruises using a linear model. Initially comparisons were restricted to BAS stations 59 that lay within 40 km of Discovery stations although a comparison was also made using 60 all available data. Despite low abundance values in 1926/27, in neither comparison did 61 Discovery data differ significantly from BAS data. Calculation of the percentage 62 similarity index across cruises did not reveal any systematic differences in species 63 composition between 1926/27 and the present. In the light of ocean warming trends, the 64 existence of more subtle changes in species composition is not ruled out, but an absence 65 of finely resolved time-series data make this impossible to determine.


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Authors: Ward, Peter, Meredith, Michael P. ORCIDORCID record for Michael P. Meredith, Whitehouse, Mick J., Rothery, Peter

On this site: Michael Meredith, Peter Ward
1 January, 2008
Progress in Oceanography / 78
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