Ecological investigations of euphausiids at high latitudes
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1. Euphausiids are an important component of high latitude pelagic ecosystems, but there is a paucity of information on their distribution, abundance and population processes on within-year time scales. This thesis encompasses new research into the euphausiid-ocean component of two important high latitude ecosystems (South Georgia and the Irminger Sea) on sub-annual time scales. 2. A new method for measuring abundance of Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) continuously at South Georgia (Southern Ocean) was devised using upward-looking acoustic devices deployed on moorings. These novel platforms provide a new window of observations onto marine systems not open from conventional research vessels. At South Georgia, the moorings provided data at a high temporal resolution giving completely new insight to the function of the coupled biological-physical marine ecosystem. The use of moorings may aid ecosystem-based management at South Georgia and elsewhere. 3. Analysis of mooring data collected between October 2002 and December 2005 indicated a regular annual cycle in krill density: high in summer and low in winter. Mooring estimates of krill density were not statistically different from estimates derived from standard ship-based surveys in adjacent time periods suggesting that the mooring point estimates had relevance in a wider spatial context (c. 100 x 100 km). The results indicated that because of the sharp peaks in the biomass cycle, the exact timing of repeated ship-based acoustic surveys might be critical. Surveys that differ in their timing by only a few weeks might exhibit quite different estimates of biomass because they fall at different points of the cycle. Additionally, within this intra-annual framework, annual ship-based surveys may be able to detect differences between high and low krill years only if they differ by densities of c. 35 g per square m. in summer and c. 20 g per square m. in winter. 4. The mechanisms driving intra-annual variability in Antarctic krill density at South Georgia are likely to be complex. Analysis of mooring data revealed a possible association between high krill density and low water temperatures (at 200 m) at South Georgia. There was evidence that seasonal variation in krill density off-shelf was linked to seasonal variation in current velocity: marked increases in velocity at the end of summer coincided with marked decreases in krill density and abrupt changes in water temperature characteristic of the Sub-Antarctic Current Front (SACCF). Oceanographic data indicated that the SACCF might have impinged in proximity to the moorings during the winter season. However, krill densities were low during these periods and analyses suggest that seasonal variations in krill density were not driven by seasonal oscillations in the position of the SACCF. The data are not consistent with a pattern of seasonal growth, production and mortality of a resident krill population at South Georgia, but are consistent with the notion of large influxes of krill in early summer, and of a predator-driven reduction at between mid- and late-summer. 5. The seasonal distribution, abundance and growth of key euphauiids in the Irminger Sea, North Atlantic was quantified using the first net haul data from the region since the 1930s. Results show a high degree of spatial heterogeneity in the seasonal distribution of euphausiid abundance/biomass during 2001-2002. There was evidence to suggest regional variation in growth and population processes of Meganyctiphanes norvegica and Thysanoessa longicaudata, and this corresponded broadly to distinct physical zones in the Irminger Sea. There were, however, no significant links between growth and temperature and chlorophyll a concentration. This was attributed to high spatial and temporal variability in biological and physical sampling. These data are a prerequisite for understanding ecosystems dynamics in the North Atlantic, and are important for robust ecosystem-based management strategies. 6. Controls on euphausiid spatial heterogeneity at high latitudes are likely to be complex. Important factors include horizontal advection, temperature, resource availability and behavioural mechanisms. Short-term (intra-annual), small-scale (basin-scale) data are fundamental to understanding variability in euphausiid abundance and distribution on broader spatial and temporal scales in these ecosystems.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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