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MEPS 506:31-46 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10803

Defining zooplankton habitats in the Gulf of Lion (NW Mediterranean Sea) using size structure and environmental conditions

B. Espinasse1,2,*, F. Carlotti1,2, M. Zhou3, J. L. Devenon1,2

1Aix Marseille Université, CNRS/INSU, IRD, Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography (MIO), UM 110, Marseille, France
2Université du Sud Toulon-Var, CNRS/INSU, IRD, Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography (MIO), UM 110, La Garde, France
3Department of Environmental, Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd, Boston, Massachusetts 02125, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The size structure of zooplankton communities in the Gulf of Lion, NW Mediterranean Sea, was studied in May 2010 and January 2011. The integrated physical and biological measurements provided a 3D view with high spatial resolution of the physical and biological variables and their correlations over the whole gulf. The effects of physical processes such as freshwater input, coastal upwelling, and water column mixing by winds on phytoplankton and zooplankton distributions were analyzed using these data. During the winter, strong northerly winds mixed the water column, and the vertical distributions of biological variables were uniform over most of the gulf while there were local hot spots with high chlorophyll a (chl a) concentrations in front of the Rhône mouths and in coastal areas. During the spring, light winds and water column stratification resulted in less vertical mixing, and the Rhône River freshwater plume spread over a large part of the gulf. The nutrients delivered by the freshwater input encouraged high primary production in the surface layer. In the pycnocline, a thin layer of high particle concentration was associated with these high phytoplankton biomasses. Three habitats were distinguished based on statistical analysis performed on biological and physical variables: (1) the coastal area characterized by shallow waters, high chl a concentrations, and a steep slope of the normalized biomass size spectrum (NBSS); (2) the area affected by the Rhône with high stratification and flat NBSS slope; and (3) the continental shelf with a deep mixed layer, relatively low particle concentrations, and moderate NBSS slope. Defining habitat is a relevant approach to designing new zooplankton sampling strategies, validating distribution models and including the zooplankton compartment in trophodynamic studies.


KEY WORDS: Plankton dynamics · Size spectra · Freshwater plume · Stratification · Coastal ecosystems · River Rhône


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Cite this article as: Espinasse B, Carlotti F, Zhou M, Devenon JL (2014) Defining zooplankton habitats in the Gulf of Lion (NW Mediterranean Sea) using size structure and environmental conditions. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 506:31-46. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10803

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