Environmental patterns and biomass distribution of gelatinous macrozooplankton. Three study cases in the South-western Atlantic Ocean
Keywords:Hydromedusae, Ctenophora, biomass distribution, gelatinous organisms, neritic Macroplankton and micronekton, hydrographic structures, South-western Atlantic Ocean
Periodic swarms or blooms of gelatinous macrozooplankton have a negative effect on many human activities such as tourism, fisheries, and industry, but for several reasons (sampling procedures, underestimation of their real abundance, etc.), they have often been neglected in the local literature. The high spatial resolution exercise of the South-western Atlantic anchovy Engraulis anchoita Recruitment Project (SARP) was therefore also suitable for estimating standing stocks of jelly macrozooplankton, attempting to establish particular environmental patterns exerting control on the spatial distribution of these facultative carnivorous predators in coastal frontal environments. These studies were carried out through a sampling programme on board the German R/V Meteor in three different systems, convergence and divergent, in the South-western Atlantic Ocean: Region A (42°S) on the Argentine shelf, characterised by tidal mixing fronts; Region B (36°S), the freshwater outflow from Río de la Plata; and Region C (28°S), under upwelling events in subtropical waters on the Brazilian shelf. In general, a dominance of gelatinous macrozooplankton, compared with the other fraction of macrozooplankton and micronekton was observed. Mean standing stock of the gelatinous zooplankton was always greater than 50% of organic carbon (org. C) in every section analysed. The lobate ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi dominated the zooplankton biomass in Region A, Argentina. It represented 60% of total org. C and was more abundant at the stratified zone of the front. Ctenophores were also dominant in Region B, Río de la Plata, where the related species Mnemiopsis mccradyi and the cydippid ctenophore Pleurobrachia pileus comprised 81% of total org. C. Mnemiopsis was most common in areas of vertical thermal and saline stratification, while Pleurobrachia was dominant in the less stratified areas. Gelatinous zooplankton was also the principal component of the macrozooplankton biomass in Region C, Brazil. The hydromedusae Rhacostoma atlantica and Olindias sambaquiensis dominated both the total and gelatinous biomass (68% and 7% of total org. C), being always more abundant under lower thermal stratification. It was found that, both in convergent and divergent local systems, gelatinous plankton tended to aggregate in areas where the presence of isolines outcropping to the surface (associated with production processes) was observed. These results are discussed in the context of existing hypotheses regarding ecosystem production and food webs.
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