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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 491:165-175 (2013)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10450

Salp-falls in the Tasman Sea: a major food input to deep-sea benthos

Natasha Henschke1,2,*, David A. Bowden3, Jason D. Everett1,2,4, Sebastian P. Holmes5,6, Rudy J. Kloser7, Raymond W. Lee8, Iain M. Suthers1,2

1Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia
2Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Building 22, Chowder Bay Road, Mosman, New South Wales 2088, Australia
3National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd. (NIWA), 301 Evans Bay Parade, Greta Point, Wellington 6021, New Zealand
4Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster, Faculty of Science, University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 123 Broadway, New South Wales 2007, Australia
5School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia
6Water & Wildlife Ecology Group (WWEG), School of Science & Health, University of Western Sydney (UWS), Penrith, New South Wales 1797, Australia
7Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Marine Laboratories, PO Box 1538, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia
8School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University, PO Box 644236, Pullman, Washington 99164-4236, USA

ABSTRACT: Large, fast-sinking carcasses (food-falls) are an important source of nutrition to deep-sea benthic communities. In 2007 and 2009, mass depositions of the salp Thetys vagina were observed on the Tasman Sea floor between 200 and 2500 m depth, where benthic crustaceans were observed feeding on them. Analysis of a long-term (1981 to 2011) trawl survey database determined that salp biomass (wet weight, WW) in the eastern Tasman Sea regularly exceeds 100 t km-3 yr-1, with biomasses as high as 734 t km-3 recorded in a single trawl. With fast sinking rates, salp fluxes to the seafloor occur year-round. Salps, like jellyfish, have been considered to be of low nutritional value; however, biochemical analyses revealed that T. vagina has a carbon (31% dry weight, DW) and energy (11.00 kJ g-1 DW) content more similar to that of phytoplankton blooms, copepods and fish than to that of jellyfish, with which they are often grouped. The deposition of the mean yearly biomass (4.81 t km-2 WW) of salps recorded from the trawl database in the Tasman Sea represents a 330% increase to the carbon input normally estimated for this region. Given their abundance, rapid export to the seabed and high nutritional value, salp carcasses are likely to be a significant input of carbon to benthic food webs, which, until now, has been largely overlooked.


KEY WORDS: Benthic communities · Gelatinous zooplankton · Carbon cycling · Fluxes · Salp-fall · Jelly-fall


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Cite this article as: Henschke N, Bowden DA, Everett JD, Holmes SP, Kloser RJ, Lee RW, Suthers IM (2013) Salp-falls in the Tasman Sea: a major food input to deep-sea benthos. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 491:165-175. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10450

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