MEPS 468:57-69 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09984

Marine snow, zooplankton and thin layers: indications of a trophic link from small-scale sampling with the Video Plankton Recorder

Klas O. Möller1,*, Michael St. John2,1, Axel Temming1, Jens Floeter1, Anne F. Sell3, Jens-Peter Herrmann1, Christian Möllmann1

1Institute for Hydrobiology and Fisheries Science, Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN), KlimaCampus, University of Hamburg, Grosse Elbstrasse 133, 22767 Hamburg, Germany
2National Institute of Aquatic Resources at the Technical University of Denmark, Charlottenlund Castle, 2920 Charlottenlund, Denmark
3Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, Institute of Sea Fisheries, Palmaille 9, 22767 Hamburg, Germany

ABSTRACT: Marine aggregates of biogenic origin, known as marine snow, are considered to play a major role in the ocean’s particle flux and may represent a concentrated food source for zooplankton. However, observing the marine snow−zooplankton interaction in the field is difficult since conventional net sampling does not collect marine snow quantitatively and cannot resolve so-called thin layers in which this interaction occurs. Hence, field evidence for the importance of the marine snow−zooplankton link is scarce. Here we employed a Video Plankton Recorder (VPR) to quantify small-scale (metres) vertical distribution patterns of fragile marine snow aggregates and zooplankton in the Baltic Sea during late spring 2002. By using this non-invasive optical sampling technique we recorded a peak in copepod abundance (ca. 18 ind. l−1) associated with a pronounced thin layer (50 to 55 m) of marine snow (maximum abundance of 28 particles l−1), a feature rarely resolved. We provide indirect evidence of copepods feeding on marine snow by computing a spatial overlap index that indicated a strong positively correlated distribution pattern within the thin layer. Furthermore we recorded images of copepods attached to aggregates and demonstrating feeding behaviour, which also suggests a trophic interaction. Our observations highlight the potential significance of marine snow in marine ecosystems and its potential as a food resource for various trophic levels, from bacteria up to fish.


KEY WORDS: Baltic Sea · Marine snow · Small-scale distribution · Thin layer · Trophic interactions · Video Plankton Recorder · Zooplankton


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Cite this article as: Möller KO, St John M, Temming A, Floeter J, Sell AF, Herrmann JP, Möllmann C (2012) Marine snow, zooplankton and thin layers: indications of a trophic link from small-scale sampling with the Video Plankton Recorder. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 468:57-69. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09984

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