Structure and functioning of two pelagic communities in the North Chilean Patagonian coastal system

Abstract

The size composition of primary producers is important for how energy is channeled through a food web and on to the higher trophic levels and eventually to fisheries. To evaluate this, we studied the productive patterns for large (micro) versus small (nano) phytoplankton in two south marine Patagonian ecosystems: The Inner Sea of Chiloe—ISCh and, Moraleda Channel—MCh. We built Ecopath models (EwE), and evaluated the hypothesis that the overall primary productivity—rather than the ratio of large to small primary producers—constitutes an adequate proxy for predicting the amount of secondary and tertiary production and biomass (up to the fisheries). The EwE model included four small-scale fisheries and 36 functional groups. The functioning of both ecosystems was similar but the ecosystem parameters (biomass, energy transfer efficiencies from primary producers, secondary, and tertiary production) were twice as much in the basin with more microphytoplankton biomass. Overall, the hypothesis was rejected, albeit it was possible to highlight the importance of the quality and size spectrum of plankton on the structure of marine ecosystem, and to demonstrate the key role of the microbial loop over traditional food web in the functioning of the carbon biological pump in Patagonia ecosystems.

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Acknowledgments

We thank our many colleagues who provided the data, information, and constructive input that allowed us to construct the trophic models for the southern coastal system of Chile: Dr. Leonardo Castro and Maria Ines Muñoz (Universidad de Concepción); Dr. Giovanni Daneri (CIEP); and Dr. Edwin Niklisheck, Dr. Ricardo Giesecke, Cecilia Torres (M.S.), Eduardo Menschel, Nicolás Sánchez, and María José Calderón (Universidad Austral de Chile). The authors thank the suggestions and comments of two anonymous reviewers that substantially improved the original version of the MS. The authors are indebted to all persons who have been working on the development of the Ecopath approach since the early 1980s, especially Carl Walters from Fisheries Centre (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada). Principal author (HP) acknowledges the assistance provided by Jeroen Steenbeek, Shawn Booth, and Andrés Cisneros during his postdoctorate research at the Fisheries Centre (UBC). This study was funded by the CIMAR-Fjords Program (grants 9, 12, and 13); FONDAP-COPAS No. 15010007 Etapa II; Programa Financiamiento Basal PFB-31/2007; and FONDECYT No. 1080187, and by the office of Research and Development (Universidad Austral de Chile) (DID-S-2010-45). HJP was supported by BECASCHILE Postdoctorate Program 2010, the Fisheries Centre of University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, and the Postdoctorate Program 2011—Fondecyt No. 3120100 during the conduction of this research. VC acknowledges support from the Nippon Foundation—UBC Nereus Program and NSERC.

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Pavés, H.J., González, H.E. & Christensen, V. Structure and functioning of two pelagic communities in the North Chilean Patagonian coastal system. Hydrobiologia 717, 85–108 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-013-1576-8

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Keywords

  • Ecopath
  • Microbial loop
  • Traditional food web
  • Patagonian coastal system