Seasonal and diel patchiness of a Daphnia population: An acoustic analysis

Hembre, Leif K., Robert O. Megard

Limnol. Oceanogr., 48(6), 2003, 2221-2233 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2003.48.6.2221

ABSTRACT: Detailed information about the location and extent of zooplankton patches is fundamental to understand how abiotic and biotic forces interact to structure the spatial distribution of zooplankton. We mapped zooplankton patchiness in a Minnesota lake during spring, summer, and autumn with high-frequency (192-kHz) single-beam sonar. Conventional plankton samples of aggregations detected acoustically revealed that Daphnia pulicaria (mean body length 1.6 mm, mean target strength -120 dB) scattered most (~63%) of the sound. Other taxa were smaller (<½ the length of D. pulicaria) and were usually less abundant and therefore scattered much less sound than D. pulicaria. Our acoustic estimates of Daphnia concentrations illustrate extreme patchiness, with concentrations varying by as much as four orders of magnitude over vertical distances of less than 1 m. Seasonal patterns of patchiness were related to predation by rainbow trout and to abiotic factors associated with stratification. Daphnia concentrations were highest from June to October in a deep-water "refuge zone" where oxygen concentrations were between 3 and 5 mg L-1. These oxygen levels are suitable for Daphnia but are lower than those required by rainbow trout. Heterogeneity in Daphnia concentration along the lake’s long axis was highest in May and June, when the population resided primarily in the oxic hypolimnion during the daytime. From July to October, as oxygen concentrations declined in the hypolimnion, the population became more metalimnetic and more uniformly distributed in the horizontal dimension. A diel study of the population in October indicated that the patchiness of population also changed dramatically between day and night. During the day the population aggregated densely in a thin layer (~2 m thick) in the thermocline. After sunset the population dispersed into the epilimnion, where concentrations were ~100,000 m23 less than they were during the day in the thermocline.

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