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Lagrangian studies of phytoplankton growth and grazing relationships in a coastal upwelling ecosystem off Southern California

  • Author(s): Landry, MR
  • Ohman, MD
  • Goericke, R
  • Stukel, MR
  • Tsyrklevich, K
  • et al.
Abstract

Experimental studies of phytoplankton growth and grazing processes were conducted in the coastal upwelling system off Point Conception, California to test the hypothesis that phytoplankton growth and grazing losses determine, to first order, the local dynamics of phytoplankton in the upwelling circulation. Eight experiments of 3-5 days each were conducted over the course of two cruises in May-June 2006 and April 2007 following the trajectories of satellite-tracked drifters. Rates of phytoplankton growth and microzooplankton grazing were determined by daily in situ dilution incubations at 8 depths spanning the euphotic zone. Mesozooplankton grazing was assessed by gut fluorescence analysis of animals collected from net tows through the euphotic zone. We compared directly the net rates of change observed for the ambient phytoplankton community to the net growth rates predicted from experimental determinations of each process rate. The resulting relationship accounted for 91% of the variability observed, providing strong support for the growth-grazing hypothesis. In addition, grazing by mesozooplankton was unexpectedly high and variable, driving a substantial positive to negative shift in phytoplankton net rate of change between years despite comparable environmental conditions and similar high growth rates and suggesting strong top-down control potential. The demonstrated agreement between net ambient and experimental community changes is an important point of validation for using field data to parameterize models. Data sets of this type may provide an important source of new information and rate constraints for developing better coupled biological-physical models of upwelling system dynamics. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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