Small benthic size classes along the European continental margin: Spatial and temporal variability in activity and biomass

Pfannkuche, Olaf and Soltwedel, T. (1998) Small benthic size classes along the European continental margin: Spatial and temporal variability in activity and biomass Progress in Oceanography, 42 . pp. 189-207. DOI 10.1016/S0079-6611(98)00034-2.

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In the context of the European OMEX Programme this investigation focused on gradients in the biomass and activity of the small benthic size spectrum along a transect across the Goban Spur from the outer Celtic Sea into Porcupine Abyssal Plain. The effects of food pulses (seasonal, episodic) on this part of the benthic size spectrum were investigated. Sediments sampled during eight expeditions at different seasons covering a range from 200 m to 4800 m water depth were assayed with biochemical bulk measurements: determinations of chloroplastic pigment equivalents (CPE), the sum of chlorophyll a and its breakdown products, provide information concerning the input of phytodetrital matter to the seafloor; phospholipids were analyzed to estimate the total biomass of small benthic organisms (including bacteria, fungi, flagellata, protozoa and small metazoan meiofauna). A new term `small size class biomass' (SSCB) is introduced for the biomass of the smallest size classes of sediment-inhabiting organisms; the reduction of fluorescein-di-acetate (FDA) was determined to evaluate the potential activity of ester-cleaving bacterial exoenzymes in the sediment samples.

At all stations benthic biomass was predominantly composed of the small size spectrum (90% on the shelf; 97–98% in the bathyal and abyssal parts of the transect). Small size class biomass (integrated over a 10 cm sediment column) ranged from 8 g C m−2 on the shelf to 2.1 g C m−2 on the adjacent Porcupine Abyssal Plain, exponentially decreasing with increasing water depth. However, a correlation between water depth and SSCB, macrofauna biomass as well as metazoan meiofauna biomass exhibited a significantly flatter slope for the small size classes in comparison to the larger organisms.

CPE values indicated a pronounced seasonal cycle on the shelf and upper slope with twin peaks of phytodetrital deposition in mid spring and late summer. The deeper stations seem to receive a single annual flux maximum in late summer. SSCB and heterotrophic activity are significantly correlated to the amount of sediment-bound pigments. Seasonality in pigment concentrations is clearly followed by SSCB and activity. In contrast to macro- and megafauna which integrate over larger periods (months/years), the small benthic size classes, namely bacteria and foraminifera, proved to be the most reactive potential of the benthic communities to any perturbations on short time scales (days/weeks). The small size classes, therefore, occupy a key role in early diagenetic processes.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: European continental margin, biomass, small benthic size spectrum
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.1016/S0079-6611(98)00034-2
ISSN: 0079-6611
Projects: OMEX I
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2008 17:24
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2016 11:58

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