Articles | Volume 8, issue 11
Research article
07 Nov 2011
Research article |  | 07 Nov 2011

Inter-annual fluctuations of zooplankton communities in the Bay of Villefranche-sur-mer from 1995 to 2005 (Northern Ligurian Sea, France)

P. Vandromme, L. Stemmann, L. Berline, S. Gasparini, L. Mousseau, F. Prejger, O. Passafiume, J.-M. Guarini, and G. Gorsky

Abstract. An integrated analysis of the pelagic ecosystems of the Ligurian Sea is performed combining time series (1995–2005) of several zooplankton groups (one group for copepods smaller than 0.724 mm3 and nine groups for individuals larger than 0.724 mm3, i.e. large copepods, decapod larvæ, other crustaceans, chaetognaths, appendicularians, pteropods, thaliaceans, gelatinous predators and other zooplankton), chlorophyll-a, nutrients, salinity, temperature, density, and local weather at Point B coastal station (Northern Ligurian Sea). From 1995 to 2000 winters were wet and mild resulting in lower winter sea surface density. These years showed lower than average nutrients and zooplankton concentrations while chlorophyll-a biomass was high. After 2000, winters were colder and dryer resulting in higher sea surface density. Nutrients and zooplankton showed higher concentrations while chlorophyll-a was lower than average. The ca. 2000 change was observed for most zooplankton groups with a one-year delay for some groups. Inter-annual variability within each period was also observed. The observed patterns suggest that the pelagic ecosystem trophic state at the studied point is mostly set by the winter forcing on the vertical mixing that upwells nutrients to the surface sustaining primary production. Surprisingly, low chlorophyll-a biomass in high nitrate and zooplankton conditions during the well mixed years suggest that phytoplankton biomass is controlled by grazers. The proposed mechanisms of stronger winter vertical mixing hold for most of the time series, but specific years with contradicting patterns suggest also the possible influence of the summer climate. A review of recent literature suggests that changes in the pelagic ecosystem are not limited to the studied site but concern also the central Ligurian Sea.

Final-revised paper