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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 668:57-72 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13740

Associations between timing and magnitude of spring blooms and zooplankton dynamics in the southwestern Barents Sea

Kaixing Dong1,*, Kristina Øie Kvile1,2, Nils C. Stenseth1, Leif C. Stige1,3

1Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, PO Box 1066 Blindern, 0316 Oslo, Norway
2Norwegian Institute for Water Research, Gaustadalléen 21, 0349 Oslo, Norway
3Norwegian Veterinary Institute, PO Box 64, 1431 Ås, Norway
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: During the past decades, many high-latitude marine systems have experienced a strong warming trend with poorly understood consequences for trophic coupling and ecosystem functioning. A key knowledge gap is how timing and magnitude of phytoplankton blooms influence higher trophic levels. We investigated associations between timing and magnitude of phytoplankton blooms and dynamics of 3 size fractions of mesozooplankton from 1998 to 2019. The study focused on the southwestern Barents Sea, an Arctic shelf sea area that is dominated by relatively warm Atlantic waters and which remains ice-free year-round. Results showed that an early spring bloom (late April to early May) was associated with high biomass of medium-sized (1-2 mm) zooplankton in areas ‘downstream’ of the phytoplankton bloom, along the prevailing currents. Conversely, a late spring bloom was associated with high biomass of small-sized (0.180-1 mm) zooplankton, with no spatial shift. High peak magnitude of the bloom (>5 mg chl a m-3) was associated with low zooplankton biomass, suggesting either top-down control or that the zooplankton utilized intense and presumably short blooms inefficiently. For small- and large-sized (>2 mm) zooplankton, the relationship was nonlinear, as zooplankton biomass was also low when bloom peak magnitude was very low (<4 mg chl a m-3). Our findings imply that if phytoplankton blooms in the region occur earlier, this will increase the biomass of medium-sized zooplankton that are important prey for planktivorous fishes. Moreover, our study highlights that increased biomass of phytoplankton does not necessarily translate into increased zooplankton biomass.


KEY WORDS: Southwestern Barents Sea · Phytoplankton blooms · Zooplankton biomass · Generalized additive models · Trophic coupling


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Cite this article as: Dong K, Kvile KØ, Stenseth NC, Stige LC (2021) Associations between timing and magnitude of spring blooms and zooplankton dynamics in the southwestern Barents Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 668:57-72. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13740

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