Kelly, T. B., Davison, P. C., Goericke, R., Landry, M. R., Ohman, M. D., & Stukel, M., R. (2019). The Importance of Mesozooplankton Diel Vertical Migration for Sustaining a Mesopelagic Food Web. FRONTIERS IN MARINE SCIENCE, 6.
Abstract: We used extensive ecological and biogeochemical measurements obtained from quasi-Lagrangian experiments during two California Current Ecosystem Long-Term Ecosystem Research cruises to analyze carbon fluxes between the epipelagic and mesopelagic zones using a linear inverse ecosystem model (LIEM). Measurement constraints on the model include C-14 primary productivity, dilution-based microzooplankton grazing rates, gut pigment-based mesozooplankton grazing rates (on multiple zooplankton size classes), Th-234:U-238 disequilibrium and sediment trap measured carbon export, and metabolic requirements of micronekton, zooplankton, and bacteria. A likelihood approach (Markov Chain Monte Carlo) was used to estimate the resulting flow uncertainties from a sample of potential flux networks. Results highlight the importance of mesozooplankton active transport (i.e., diel vertical migration) in supplying the carbon demand of mesopelagic organisms and sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In nine water parcels ranging from a coastal bloom to offshore oligotrophic conditions, mesozooplankton active transport accounted for 18-84% (median: 42%) of the total carbon transfer to the mesopelagic, with gravitational settling of POC (12-55%; median: 37%), and subduction (2-32%; median: 14%) providing the majority of the remainder. Vertically migrating zooplankton contributed to downward carbon flux through respiration and excretion at depth and via mortality losses to predatory zooplankton and mesopelagic fish (e.g., myctophids and gonostomatids). Sensitivity analyses showed that the results of the LIEM were robust to changes in nekton metabolic demand, rates of bacterial production, and mesozooplankton gross growth efficiency. This analysis suggests that prior estimates of zooplankton active transport based on conservative estimates of standard (rather than active) metabolism are likely too low.