The response of crustacean zooplankton production to variations in food quantity, quality, and primary production in coastal marine ecosystems




Suchy, Karyn Dawn

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Crustaceans, the most abundant group of organisms that make up zooplankton, form a critical link in the food web between primary-producing phytoplankton and planktivorous fish. Examining this link is essential in order to effectively estimate the amount of energy available to higher trophic levels. The most appropriate currency for tracking energy flow through these food webs is to measure production, or the amount of new biomass generated over a given period of time. Although measurements of primary productivity are routinely made in oceanographic studies, estimates of secondary productivity are rare due to their historical reliance on time-consuming methods. The overall objective of this thesis was to determine the factors influencing temporal variations in community-level crustacean productivity. A simplified lab experiment was used to establish a relationship between diet and chitobiase-based estimates of copepod productivity in response to single versus mixed species phytoplankton diets. In addition, the relationships between primary productivity and chitobiase-based productivity for the entire crustacean zooplankton community were examined over two years in Saanich Inlet, British Columbia, Canada. Lastly, this work determined the abiotic and biotic factors most strongly influencing crustacean productivity in the tropical Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, dominated by the microbial loop. Results from this work show that: (i) copepod populations fed a poor food item take longer to develop through early stages, have lower daily growth rates, and exhibit lower productivity than those fed a good quality food item; (ii) important variations in crustacean productivity are missed when biomass estimates, alone, are used to represent food available to higher trophic levels; (iii) relationships between primary productivity and crustacean productivity can vary interannually and are not necessarily controlled by bottom-up processes; (iv) substantial interannual variations in trophic transfer efficiency (TTE) occur even if average TTE is the same across years; and (v) community-level crustacean productivity in tropical regions dominated by the microbial food loop can be as high as, if not higher than, productivity measured in temperate regions. Ultimately, this work provides insight into how accurate productivity estimates can improve our understanding of zooplankton dynamics in both laboratory and field settings in marine ecosystems worldwide.



Crustacean productivity, Crustacean production, Primary production, Zooplankton, Crustaceans, Food quality, Chitobiase, Trophic transfer efficiency, Secondary production, Saanich Inlet, Guanabara Bay