AME 34:151-164 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/ame034151

Plankton community structure and carbon cycling in a coastal upwelling system. I. Bacteria, microprotozoans and phytoplankton in the diet of copepods and appendicularians

Cristian A. Vargas1,*, Humberto E. González2

1Department of Oceanography, Universidad de Concepcion, Casilla 160-C, Concepcion, Chile
2Institute of Marine Biology ŒDr. Jürgen Winter¹, Universidad Austral de Chile, Casilla 567, Valdivia, Chile

ABSTRACT: Copepod and appendicularian grazing experiments using naturally occurring planktonic assemblages from a coastal embayment (Mejillones Bay, northern Chile upwelling system at 23º S) were conducted between October 2000 and October 2001. Total carbon ingestion rates based on size-fractioned chlorophyll data showed that dominant copepods (Acartia tonsa, Centropages brachiatus, Oithona similis and Paracalanus parvus) ingested between 2 and 8 μgC ind.-1 d-1, while appendicularians (Oikopleura dioica and O. longicauda) ingested ~3 to 4 μgC ind.-1 d-1. Even when most copepods were feeding on larger cells (>23 μm) at high rates, the smaller copepods also grazed at similar rates on nanoplankton (5 to 23 μm) and picoplankton (<5 μm). In contrast, chain-forming diatoms were cleared at very low rates by copepods. Bacteria were cleared only by appendicularians (~170 to ~400 ml ind.-1 d-1) but not by any copepod, while heterotrophic protists constituted a substantial proportion in the diet of both copepods and appendicularians (~10 to 100% body carbon d-1), particularly during austral spring. Occasionally, copepod C-specific ingestion on heterotrophs was similar to that on autotrophic cells. Large ciliates and dinoflagellates were cleared but not ingested by the appendicularian O. dioica, suggesting a mechanism of trapping large cells in their houses and implying a rapid export of fresh material. Since heterotrophs are a common component in the diet of these 2 groups (omnivory by copepods and bacterophagy by appendicularians), they can potentially affect microbial food webs in this upwelling system and thus carbon export.

KEY WORDS: Carbon flux · Omnivory · Microzooplankton · Clearance rate · Copepods · Appendicularians

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