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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 487:123-133 (2013)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10390

Patchy zooplankton grazing and high energy conversion efficiency: ecological implications of sandeel behavior and strategy

Mikael van Deurs*, Asbjørn Christensen, Anna Rindorf

DTU Aqua National Institute of Aquatic Resources, Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Jægersborg Alle 1, Charlottenlund Castle, 2920 Charlottenlund, Denmark

ABSTRACT: Sandeels display strong site fidelity and spend most of their life buried in the seabed. This strategy carries important ecological implications. Sandeels save energy when they are not foraging, but in return are unable to move substantially and may therefore be sensitive to local depletion of prey. We studied zooplankton consumption and energy conversion efficiency of the lesser sandeel Ammodytes marinus in the central North Sea, using stomach data, length and weight-at-age data, bioenergetics, and hydrodynamic modeling. The results suggested the following. (1) Lesser sandeels in the Dogger area depend largely on relatively large copepods in early spring. (2) The lesser sandeel is an efficient converter, making secondary production into fish tissue available for higher trophic levels. Hence, changes in species composition towards a more herring-dominated system, as seen in recent times, may lead to a decrease in system transfer efficiency. (3) Sandeels leave footprints in the standing copepod biomass as far as 100 km from the edge of their habitat, but smaller and more isolated sandeel habitat patches have a much lower impact than larger patches, suggesting that smaller habitats can sustain higher sandeel densities and growth rates per area than larger habitats. We conclude that sandeel behavior and strategy have ecosystem implications.


KEY WORDS: Sand lance · Food web · Trophic transfer efficiency · Bioenergetics · Growth · Food consumption · North Sea · Dogger


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Cite this article as: van Deurs M, Christensen A, Rindorf A (2013) Patchy zooplankton grazing and high energy conversion efficiency: ecological implications of sandeel behavior and strategy. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 487:123-133. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10390

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