AME 15:53-63 (1998)  -  doi:10.3354/ame015053

Microzooplankton grazing in northern San Francisco Bay measured by the dilution method

M. C. Murrell1,*, J. T. Hollibaugh2,**

1Department of Ocean Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA
2Romberg Tiburon Center, San Francisco State University, PO Box 855, Tiburon, California 94926, USA
*E-mail:
**Present address: Department of Marine Science, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602-3636, USA

Microzooplankton (defined herein as phagotrophs <200 μm) grazing was studied in northern San Francisco Bay, California, USA, from September 1993 to July 1994 using the dilution method. The focus of the study was the estuarine turbidity maximum zone of northern San Francisco Bay (Suisun Bay), though some experiments were also performed in southern San Francisco Bay and Tomales Bay. Three microzooplankton prey items were examined: phytoplankton (as chlorophyll a), cyanobacteria, and bacterioplankton (i.e. non-chlorophyll containing bacteria). Statistically significant grazing rates were observed in 5 of 31 northern San Francisco Bay experiments over 7 dates spanning 10 mo. Average grazing rates on phytoplankton, cyanobacteria and bacterioplankton were 0.06, 0.00, and 0.22 d-1 respectively. Grazing rates were statistically significant in 5 of 7 southern San Francisco Bay experiments on 3 dates. Average grazing rates on phytoplankton and cyanobacteria were 0.41 and 1.84 d-1 respectively. Grazing rates were statistically significant in 4 of 4 Tomales Bay experiments performed on 1 date, averaging 0.69 and 0.75 d-1 on phytoplankton and bacterioplankton respectively. The low grazing rates in northern San Francisco Bay suggest that microzooplankton may not play a pivotal role in controlling prey biomass, although this interpretation is complicated by the possibility that one or more of the dilution method assumptions may not hold in this environment. We hypothesize that the introduced Asian clam Potamocorbula amurensis may be controlling the biomass of microzooplankton, their prey, or both. A review of the literature indicated that the dilution method regularly yields statistically non-significant grazing rates, suggesting that our results are not unique.


Dilution technique · San Francisco Bay · Estuary · Microzooplankton · Trophic coupling


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