Comparative biomass structure and estimated carbon flow in food webs in the deep Gulf of Mexico
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A budget of the standing stocks and cycling of organic carbon associated with the sea floor has been generated for seven sites across a 3-km depth gradient in the NE Gulf of Mexico, based on a Series of reports by co-authors on specific biotic groups or processes. The standing stocks measured at each site were bacteria, Foraminifera, metazoan meiofauna, macrofauna, invertebrate rnegafauna, and demersal fishes. Sediment community oxygen consumption (SCOC) by the sediment-dwelling organisms was measured at each site using a remotely deployed benthic lander, profiles of oxygen concentration in the sediment pore water of recovered cores and ship-board core incubations. The long-term incorporation and burial of organic carbon into the sediments has been estimated using profiles of a combination of stable and radiocarbon isotopes. The total stock estimates, carbon burial, and the SCOC allowed estimates of living and detrital carbon residence time within the sediments, illustrating that the total biota turns over on time scales of months on the upper continental slope but this is extended to years on the abyssal plain at 3.6 km depth. The detrital carbon turnover is many times longer, however, over the same depths. A composite carbon budget illustrates that total carbon biomass and associated fluxes declined precipitously with increasing depth. Imbalances in the carbon budgets suggest that organic detritus is exported from the upper continental slope to greater depths offshore. The respiration of each individual “size” or functional group within the community has been estimated from allometric models, supplemented by direct measurements in the laboratory. The respiration and standing stocks were incorporated into budgets of carbon flow through and between the different size groups in hypothetical food webs. The decline in stocks and respiration with depth were more abrupt in the larger forms (fishes and megafauna), resulting in an increase in the relative predominance of smaller sizes (bacteria and meiofauna) at depth. Rates and stocks in the deep northern GoM appeared to be comparable to other continental margins where similar comparisons have been made. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.