Collaborative Research: Salpa Thompsoni in the Southern Ocean: Bioenergetics, Population Dynamics and Biogeochemical Impact
Salps are planktonic grazers that have a life history, feeding biology and population dynamic strikingly different from krill, copepods or other crustacean zooplankton. Salps can occur in very dense population blooms that cover large areas and have been shown to have major impacts due to the their grazing and the production of fast-sinking fecal pellets. Although commonly acknowledged as a major component of the Southern Ocean zooplankton community, often comparable in biomass and distribution to krill, salps have received relatively little attention. Although extensive sampling has documented the seasonal abundance of salps in the Southern Ocean, there is a paucity of data on important rates that determine population growth and the role of this species in grazing and vertical flux of particulates. This proposed study will include: measurements of respiration and excretion rates for solitary and aggregate salps of all sizes; measurements of ingestion rates, including experiments to determine the size or concentration of particulates that can reduce ingestion; and determination of growth rates of solitaries and aggregates. In addition to the various rate measurements, this study will include quantitative surveys of salp horizontal and vertical distribution to determine their biomass and spatial distribution, and to allow a regional assessment of their effects. Measurements of the physical characteristics of the water column and the quantity and quality of particulate food available for the salps at each location will also be made. Satellite imagery and information on sea-ice cover will be used to test hypotheses about conditions that result in high densities of salps. Results will be used to construct a model of salp population dynamics, and both experimental and modeling results will be interpreted within the context of the physical and nutritional conditions to which the salps are exposed. This integrated approach will provide a good basis for understanding the growth dynamics of salp blooms in the Southern Ocean. Two graduate students will be trained on this project, and cruise and research experience will be provided for two undergraduate students. A portion of a website allowing students to be a virtual participant in the research will be created to strengthen students' quantitative skills. Both PI's will participate in teacher-researcher workshops, and collaboration with a regional aquarium will be developed in support of public education.
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