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Zooplankton communities fluctuations from 1995 to 2005 in the Bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer (Northern Ligurian Sea, France)

Author(s): P. Vandromme | L. Stemmann | L. Berline | S. Gasparini | L. Mousseau | F. Prejger | O. Passafiume | J.-M. Guarini | G. Gorsky

Journal: Biogeosciences Discussions
ISSN 1810-6277

Volume: 7;
Issue: 6;
Start page: 9175;
Date: 2010;
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An integrated analysis of the pelagic ecosystems of the Ligurian Sea is performed combining time series of different zooplankton groups (small and large copepods, chaetognaths, appendicularians, pteropods, thaliaceans, decapods larvae, other crustaceans, other gelatinous and other zooplankton), chlorophyll-a and nutrients, seawater salinity, temperature and density and local weather at the Point B coastal station (Northern Ligurian Sea). From January 1995 to December 2005, a shift in most variables occurred ca. 2000. From 1995 to 2000 winters were wet and mild resulting in lower winter sea surface density. These years showed lower than average nutrients and zooplankton concentrations while phytoplankton biomass was higher. After 2000, winters were colder and dryer resulting in higher sea surface density. Nutrients and zooplankton showed higher concentrations while phytoplankton was lower than average. The ca. 2000 shift was observed for most zooplankton groups with a one year delay for certain groups. The observed patterns suggest that the pelagic ecosystem trophic state is mostly set by the winter forcing on the convection that upwells nutrients to the surface sustaining the spring bloom. However, low phytoplankton concentrations in higher nitrate and zooplankton conditions during the well mixed years suggest that phytoplankton is controlled by grazers. The proposed mechanisms of convection regimes hold for most of the time series, but specific years with contradicting patterns needed to be explained by other factors. The limitation of phytoplankton growth by the light availability in spring/summer was then proposed as a secondary driving force that can moderate or even reverse the winter forcing. Finally, the eleven years of observation did not reveal a clear link with the North Atlantic Oscillation, suggesting a more complex dynamics linking large scale climate to Ligurian Sea ecosystems or that the length of the plankton monitoring is not yet sufficient to detect those links.
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