Large salp bloom export from the upper ocean and benthic community response in the abyssal northeast Pacific: Day to week resolution

K. L. Smith Jr., A. D. Sherman, C. L. Huffard, P. R. McGill, R. Henthorn, S. Von Thun, H. A. Ruhl, M. Kahru and M. D. Ohman

Limnol. Oceanogr., 59(3), 2014, 745-757 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2014.59.3.0745

ABSTRACT: A large bloom of Salpa spp. in the northeastern Pacific during the spring of 2012 resulted in a major deposition of tunics and fecal pellets on the seafloor at ∼ 4000 m depth (Sta. M) over a period of 6 months. Continuous monitoring of this food pulse was recorded using autonomous instruments: sequencing sediment traps, a time-lapse camera on the seafloor, and a bottom-transiting vehicle measuring sediment community oxygen consumption (SCOC). These deep-sea measurements were complemented by sampling of salps in the epipelagic zone by California Cooperative Ocean Fisheries Investigations. The particulate organic carbon (POC) flux increased sharply beginning in early March, reaching a peak of 38 mg C m−2 d−1 in mid-April at 3400 m depth. Salp detritus started appearing in images of the seafloor taken in March and covered a daily maximum of 98% of the seafloor from late June to early July. Concurrently, the SCOC rose with increased salp deposition, reaching a high of 31 mg C m−2 d−1 in late June. A dominant megafauna species, Peniagone sp. A, increased 7-fold in density beginning 7 weeks after the peak in salp deposition. Estimated food supply from salp detritus was 97–327% of the SCOC demand integrated over the 6-month period starting in March 2012. Such large episodic pulses of food sustain abyssal communities over extended periods of time.

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