Meiofauna winners and losers of coastal hypoxia: case study harpacticoid copepods
Abstract. The impact of anoxia on meiobenthic copepod species was assessed by means of a field experiment. Four plexiglass chambers were deployed in situ in 24 m depth to simulate an anoxic event of 9 days, 1 month, 2 months and 10 months. From normoxic to anoxic conditions, we recorded a drop in copepod density and species richness. With increasing duration of anoxia the relative abundance of the individuals of the family Cletodidae increased, and they survived the 1 month and 2 month anoxia, the latter with few specimens. They were the true "winners" of the experimentally induced anoxia. Dominance did not increase in the deployments because not one, but several species from this family were tolerant to anoxia. The overall rate of survival was the same for males and females, but no juvenile stages of copepods survived in anoxia. During a recovery phase of 7 days after a short-term anoxia of 9 days, harpacticoid copepod density did not increase significantly, and there was only a slight increase in species diversity. We concluded that no substantial colonisation from the surrounding sediment took place. The survivors, however, showed a high potential for recovery according to the number of gravid females, whose number increased significantly once the oxygen was available again. These findings imply that substantial energy is allocated to reproduction in the recovery phase.