Zooplankton community structure in a cyclonic and mode-water eddy in the Sargasso Sea Academic Article uri icon


  • Mesoscale eddies are important suppliers of nutrients to the surface waters of oligotrophic gyres, but little is known about the biological response, particularly that of higher trophic levels, to these physical perturbations. During the summers of 2004 and 2005, we followed the development of a cyclonic eddy and an anti-cyclonic mode-water eddy in the Sargasso Sea. Zooplankton (> 150 mu m) were collected across both eddies in 9 discrete depth intervals between 0 and 700 m. Comparison of the abundance of major taxa of mesozooplankton in the upper 150 m at eddy center and outside the eddies (day and night) indicated that the cyclone and mode-water eddy supported similar mesozooplankton communities, with several taxa significantly higher in abundance inside than outside the eddies, when compared with the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study site as representative of mean conditions. In both eddies copepod peak abundance occurred in the 50-100 m depth interval, coincident with the chlorophyll a maximum, suggesting elevated food concentration in the eddies may have influenced zooplankton vertical distribution. The two eddies differed in the strength of diel vertical migration of zooplankton, as indicated by the ratio of night:day abundance in the epipelagic zone, which was higher at the center of the mode-water eddy for most taxa. Over the sampling interval of 1-2 months, abundance of the three most common taxa (copepods, chaetognaths, and ostracods) decreased in the cyclone and increased in the mode-water eddy. This further supports previous findings that over the sampling period the cyclone was in a decay phase, while the mode-water eddy was sustaining nutrient fluxes and high phytoplankton concentrations. A more detailed analysis of community structure in the mode-water eddy indicated the 0-700 m integrated abundance of doliolids was significantly higher inside the mode-water eddy than outside. The presence of a mesopelagic (200-700 m) layer of lepadid barnacle cyprids in this eddy highlights the potential of eddies to transport and disperse biota. We conclude that when compared with average ambient conditions (as measured at BATS), mesoscale eddies can influence zooplankton behavior and alter zooplankton community structure which can affect food-web interactions and biogeochemical cycling in the open ocean. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • October 2009