, Volume 70, Issue 2, pp 187-196

Trophic implications of cross-shelf copepod distributions in the Southeastern Bering Sea

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Spring distributions of some numerically dominant copepods reflect associations with two distinct water masses separated along the 80- to 100-m isobaths. Seaward of this middle shelf front, the oceanic Bering Sea hosts populations of Calanus cristatus, C. plumchrus, and Eucalanus bungii bungii; Metridia pacifica, Oithona similis, and Pseudocalanus spp. are also present. The large oceanic species are much less abundant in waters shallower than 80 m where the community is seasonally dominated by smaller copepods, O. similis, Acartia longiremis, and Pseudocalanus spp. Experimental and field-derived estimates of carbon ingestion indicate that the oceanic/outer shelf copepods can occasionally graze the equivalent of the daily plant production and probably routinely remove 20–30% of the primary productivity. Conversely, stocks of middle shelf copepods rarely ingest more than 5% of the plant carbon productivity. During 45 d between mid April to late May, 1979, approximately three times more organic matter was ingested m-2 by the outer shelf/oceanic copepod community than by middle shelf species. This imbalance in cross-shelf grazing permits middle shelf phytoplankton stocks to grow rapidly to bloom proportions, and to sink ungrazed to the seabed. Over the outer shelf and particularly along the shelf break, a much closer coupling to phytoplankton supports a large biomass of oceanic grazers. Here, copepod stocks approaching 45 g dry wt m-2 occur in late spring as a narrow band at the shelf break.

Supported by National Science Foundation Grant DPP 76-23340
Contribution no. 485, Institute of Marine Science, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Communicated by R. O. Fournier, Halifax