, Volume 82, Issue 2, pp 167-180

Plankton community dynamics of the central Great Barrier Reef Lagoon: Analysis of data from Ikeda et al.

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Abstract

Plankton data collected by Ikeda et al. (1980) from the central region of the Great Barrier Reef, and spanning two years (1976 through 1978) of zooplankton records, have been analyzed extensively for spatial and temporal patterns. Estimates of net zooplankton (including chaetognaths, copepods, and larvaceans) and microzooplankton (juvenile copepods, encompassing nauplii and copepodites, and ciliates) were assessed at three stations across the 60 km lagoon. Temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll a were also measured. A cross-lagoonal gradient was identified in the plankton, concurring with results of related surveys of benthic taxa, such as scleractinian corals, soft corals, macro-algae, fish, sponges, crinoids, etc. Two associations of net zooplankton were identified. The first was associated primarily with the inner lagoon; the second with the outer lagoon. The inshore association was characterized by higher abundances of almost all net zooplankton taxa, particularly chaetognaths, copepods, polychaetes, decapods, and meroplanktonic larvae as well as higher concentrations of chlorophyll a. This inshore association wove back and forth across the lagoon through time, dominating the lagoon entirely during periods of high river discharge, reaching the mid-shelf platform reefs in this region, and sometimes being entirely absent during dry periods. Both seasonal and annual peaks in plankton abundance were generally linked with degree of runoff. Summer/autumn peaks of abundance were evident in chaetognaths, copepods, and larvaceans while annual variation was detected in the former two as well as in chlorophyll a concentrations. Depth stratification was noted in juvenile copepods and chlorophyll a concentrations at the center of the lagoon, with higher abundances recorded in deeper waters. The central Great Barrier Reef lagoon was found to be typical of other tropical coastal waters where plankton community dynamics are controlled primarily by physical factors. We suggest that any substantial changes in river discharge in this area will affect plankton production.

A.I.M.S. Contribution No. 242
Communicated by G. F. Humphrey, Sydney