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Marine snow, zooplankton and thin layers: indications of a trophic link from small-scale sampling with the Video Plankton Recorder

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Sell,  Anne F.
Department Ecophysiology, Max Planck Institute for Limnology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Moeller, K. O., St John, M., Temming, A., Floeter, J., Sell, A. F., Herrmann, J.-P., et al. (2012). Marine snow, zooplankton and thin layers: indications of a trophic link from small-scale sampling with the Video Plankton Recorder. MARINE ECOLOGY PROGRESS SERIES, 468, 57-69. doi:10.3354/meps09984.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0017-C782-0
Abstract
Marine aggregates of biogenic origin, known as marine snow, are considered to play a major role in the ocean's particle flux and may represent a concentrated food source for zooplankton. However, observing the marine snow-zooplankton interaction in the field is difficult since conventional net sampling does not collect marine snow quantitatively and cannot resolve so-called thin layers in which this interaction occurs. Hence, field evidence for the importance of the marine snow-zooplankton link is scarce. Here we employed a Video Plankton Recorder (VPR)to quantify small-scale (metres) vertical distribution patterns of fragile marine snow aggregates and zooplankton in the Baltic Sea during late spring 2002. By using this non-invasive optical sampling technique we recorded a peak in copepod abundance (ca. 18 ind. l(-1)) associated with a pronounced thin layer (50 to 55 m) of marine snow (maximum abundance of 28 particles l(-1)), a feature rarely resolved. We provide indirect evidence of copepods feeding on marine snow by computing a spatial overlap index that indicated a strong positively correlated distribution pattern within the thin layer. Furthermore we recorded images of copepods attached to aggregates and demonstrating feeding behaviour, which also suggests a trophic interaction. Our observations highlight the potential significance of marine snow in marine ecosystems and its potential as a food resource for various trophic levels, from bacteria up to fish.