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Coherence of long-term variations of zooplankton in two sectors of the California Current System


We analyzed long-term (56-year) variations in springtime biomass of the zooplankton of the California Current System from two primary regions sampled by CalCOFI: Southern California (SC) and Central California (CC) waters. All organisms were enumerated from the plankton samples and converted to organic carbon biomass using length-carbon relationships, then aggregated into 19 major taxa. Planktonic copepods dominate the carbon biomass in both SC (59%) and CC (46%), followed by euphausiids (18% and 25% of mean biomass in SC and CC, respectively). Pelagic tunicates, especially salps and doliolids, constituted a higher fraction of the biomass in CC (13%) than in SC (5%). There was no long-term trend detectable in total zooplankton carbon biomass, in marked contrast to a decline in zooplankton displacement volume in both regions. The difference between these biomass metrics is accounted for by a long-term decline in pelagic tunicates (particularly salps), which have a relatively high ratio of biovolume:carbon. The decline in pelagic tunicates was accompanied by a long-term increase in water column density stratification. No other taxa showed a decline over the duration of the study, apart from salps and pyrosomes in SC and doliolids in CC. Some zooplankton taxa showed compensatory increases over the same time period (ostracods, large decapods, and calycophoran siphonophores in both SC and CC; appendicularians and polychaetes in SC). Two tests for ecosystem shifts, a sequential algorithm and the cumulative sum of anomalies (CuSum) approach, failed to detect changes in 1976-1977 in total carbon biomass, displacement volume, or most individual major taxa, suggesting that aggregated biomass is an insensitive indicator of climate forcing. In contrast, both techniques revealed a cluster of step-like changes associated with the La Niña of 1999. The major El Niño's in the past half century have consistently depressed total zooplankton biomass and biomass of many major taxa in both SC and CC, although such effects are transitory. Much, but not all, of the interannual variability in zooplankton is shared between the Southern and Central California sectors of the California Current System. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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