MEPS 178:221-227 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/meps178221

Biomass size-spectra of macrobenthic assemblages along water depth in Antarctica

J. I. Saiz-Salinas1,*, A. Ramos2

1Dpto. de Zoología y DCA, Universidad del País Vasco, E-48080 Bilbao, Apdo. 644, Spain
2Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Puerto Pesquero s/n. E-29640 Fuengirola, Spain

ABSTRACT: Several biomass size spectra of benthic assemblages were constructed along a water depth gradient on the southern coast of Livingston Island (South Shetland Islands, Antarctica). The size-spectrum for shallow bottoms (<100 m depth) was bimodal with peaks in the 32-64 and 512-1024 g weight-classes, a feature which was attributable to the existence of large filter-feeders. By contrast, both intermediate (100-200 m) and deep (>200 m) zones showed unimodal spectra with biomass peaks in the 1-2 and 0.5-1 g weight ranges respectively. Filter-feeders also affected the larger size classes at intermediate depths, whereas they were almost absent in deeper waters. The slope of the normalized size-spectrum at shallower bottoms (-0.76) was different from those of intermediate (-1.25) and deeper (-1.31) zones. This clearly indicated 2 contrasting faunal strategies: a biomass increase with size in shallow waters, whereas the biomass decreased with size in deep waters. Estimates of total secondary production were calculated using allometric equations published in the literature. Results indicated a decrease of total secondary production along water depth, with 15 g C m-2 yr-1 in shallow waters, 9 g C m-2 yr-1 at intermediate bottoms and 8 g C m-2 yr-1 at deep bottoms. The pattern of the biomass size spectrum for shallower waters suggested that there was a predictable and regular supply of food, which allowed accumulation of biomass in the larger size classes corresponding to filter-feeder organisms. Conversely, the concentration of biomass in smaller size classes of the spectra for intermediate and deeper waters pointed to more unpredictable and fluctuating food conditions arriving from the overlying layer to the deeper sea floor. Sufficient evidence exists in the literature to indicate that a tight pelagic-benthic coupling was causing biological enhancement of a suspension-feeding macrofauna at shallow bottoms, and that below 100 m depth the effects of the coupling were rather weak.

KEY WORDS: Biomass size spectra · Benthic macrofauna · Total production · Antarctica

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