Mesozooplankton features in a frontal area off northern Patagonia (Argentina) during spring 1995 and 1998
Keywords:zooplankton, tidal front, food webs
Hydrography and spatial patterns of mesozooplankton communities in a frontal area off northern Patagonian were investigated in spring 1995 and 1998. Differential wind/tidal relative forcing appeared to drive along-shelf variations in the physical structure of the front and hence, planktonic patterns. Approaching the northern border of the system, the conspicuous presence of Oithona helgolandica, cladocerans and appendicularians, and the low fecundities of calanoid copepods suggest that a high proportion of the primary production may be channelled through microheterotrophic processes. Towards the southern area, calanoids dominated over cyclopoids, `large´ species (Drepanopus forcipatus, Calanoides cf. carinatus) were abundant, and copepod fecundities were high and steady, suggesting that there may be a more classical-like herbivorous food web. Paracalanus parvus and Ctenocalanus vanus occurred over the whole system but seemed to be key species in mixed and weakly stratified waters. Copepods peaked in stratified waters away from the front itself, while the abundance of eggs and nauplii was highest in weakly stratified waters next to the front. Apparently, the general heating occurring over the region in spring 1998 strongly affected both the physical and biological structure of the system. Unlike in 1995, a massive bloom of gelatinous zooplankton took place in 1998 and a bloom of the phagotrophic dinoflagellate Noctiluca sp. occurred in the northern area. Co-occurring copepod populations were depressed and their reproductive patterns seemed to be highly disrupted. Present observations stress the significance of variable external forcing in driving satisfactory habitat conditions for juvenile fish in the area.
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