Articles | Volume 9, issue 4
Research article
10 Apr 2012
Research article |  | 10 Apr 2012

Size distribution of particles and zooplankton across the shelf-basin system in southeast Beaufort Sea: combined results from an Underwater Vision Profiler and vertical net tows

A. Forest, L. Stemmann, M. Picheral, L. Burdorf, D. Robert, L. Fortier, and M. Babin

Abstract. The size distribution and mean spatial trends of large particles (>100 μm, in equivalent spherical diameter, ESD) and mesozooplankton were investigated across the Mackenzie Shelf (southeast Beaufort Sea, Arctic Ocean) in July–August 2009. Our main objective was to combine results from an Underwater Vision Profiler 5 (UVP5) and traditional net tows (200 μm mesh size) to characterize the structural diversity and functioning of the Arctic shelf-basin ecosystem and to assess the large-scale correspondence between the two methodological approaches. The core dataset comprised 154 UVP5 profiles and 29 net tows conducted in the shelf (<100 m isobath), slope (100–1000 m) and basin (>1000 m) regions of the study area. The mean abundance of total particles and zooplankton in the upper water column (<75 m depth) declined exponentially with increasing distance from shore. Vertical and latitudinal patterns in total particle concentration followed those of chlorophyll a (chl a) concentration, with maximum values between 30 and 70 m depth. Based on the size-spectra derived from the UVP5 dataset, living organisms (0.1–10 mm ESD) accounted for an increasingly large proportion of total particle abundance (from 0.1 % to >50 %) when progressing offshore and as the ESD of particles was increasing. Both the UVP5 and net tows determined that copepods dominated the zooplankton community (~78–94 % by numbers) and that appendicularians were generally the second most abundant group (~1–11 %). The vertical distribution patterns of copepods and appendicularians indicated a close association between primary production and the main grazers. Manual taxonomic counts and ZooScan image analyses shed further light on the size-structure and composition of the copepod community – which was dominated at ~95 % by a guild of 10 typical taxa. The size distributions of copepods, as evaluated with the 3 methods (manual counts, ZooScan and UVP5), showed consistent patterns co-varying in the same order of magnitude over the upper size range (>1 mm ESD). Copepods <1 mm were not well quantified by the UVP5, which estimated that only ~13–25 % of the assemblage was composed of copepods <1 mm ESD compared with ~77–89 % from the net tow estimates. However, the biovolume of copepods was overwhelmingly dominated (~93–97 %) by copepods >1 mm ESD. Our results illustrate that the combination of traditional sampling methods and automated imaging techniques is a powerful approach that enabled us to conclude on the prevalence of a relatively high productivity regime and dominant herbivorous food web over the shelf when compared with the low-productive recycling system detected offshore.

Final-revised paper