MEPS 557:91-110 (2016)  -  DOI:

Carbon flow through the pelagic food web in southern Chilean Patagonia: relevance of Euphausia vallentini as a key species

H. E. González1,2,*, M. Graeve4, G. Kattner4, N. Silva5, L. Castro6,7, J. L. Iriarte2,3,7,8, L. Osmán9, G. Daneri3,7, C. A. Vargas10

1Universidad Austral de Chile, Instituto de Ciencias Marinas y Limnológicas, Valdivia, Chile
2Centro FONDAP de Investigación de Ecosistemas Marinos de Altas Latitudes (IDEAL), Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile
3Centro de Investigación de Ecosistemas de la Patagonia (CIEP), Coyhaique, Chile
4Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany
5Escuela de Ciencias del Mar, P. Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Chile
6Departamento de Oceanografía, Universidad de Concepción, Concepción, Chile
7Centro COPAS-Sur Austral, Universidad de Concepción, Concepción, Chile
8Universidad Austral de Chile, Instituto Acuicultura, Puerto Montt, Chile
9The Nature Conservancy, Los Helechos 635, Valdivia, Chile
10Departamento de Sistemas Acuáticos, Facultad de Ciencias Ambientales, Millennium Institute of Oceanography (IMO), and Center for the Study of Multiple-Drivers on Marine Socio-Ecological Systems (MUSELS), Universidad de Concepción, Concepción, Chile
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The southernmost Patagonian region constitutes a major glaciered area with a high freshwater input loaded with particulate and dissolved matter. We assessed the relevance of the terrestrial (allochthonous) and marine (autochthonous) matter that permeates into the fjord and channel system and their possible impact on the euphausiid-based food web. A research cruise (CIMAR 16) was conducted from 18 October to 13 November 2010 (austral spring) in the area between Magellan Strait and Drake Passage to study the physical-chemical and biological characteristics of the pelagic food web, as well as the main biological processes linked with the food web. The dominance of phytoplankton within the autochthonous fractions of particulate organic carbon (POC) and the high abundance and bacterivory rate shown by the heterotrophic nanoflagellates suggest an interplay between microbial and classical food webs. Euphausia vallentini showed a moderate grazing impact (3% of the gross primary production) and a daily ration of 18.6%, and the fecal pellet production rate corresponded to 24.5% of the ingestion rate. This species removed heterotrophic prey (67.5%) preferentially over diatoms (32.5%), and the ingested diet was mainly dinoflagellates, tintinnids, crustacean nauplii and centric diatoms. Overall, euphausiids fed preferentially on marine matter, which showed a tight link with the pelagic food web. Congeneric species of the genus Euphausia shared the condition of ‘key species’ as they constitute a major carbon and energy flow from lower to higher trophic levels and an important part of the POC flux through their active vertical migration and passive fecal-carbon export.

KEY WORDS: Chilean Patagonia · Euphausia vallentini · Pelagic carbon flux · Euphausiid diet

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Cite this article as: González HE, Graeve M, Kattner G, Silva N and others (2016) Carbon flow through the pelagic food web in southern Chilean Patagonia: relevance of Euphausia vallentini as a key species. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 557:91-110.

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