Mesozooplankton community in the Bay of Bengal (India): Spatial variability during the summer monsoon

Author(s): Fernandes V and Ramaiah N


This study addresses the spatial variability in mesozooplankton biomass and composition in the Central and Western Bay of Bengal (India) during the summer monsoon season of 2001. Perennially warmer sea surface temperatures (>28°C), stratified top layer (sea surface salinity, 28–33 psu), high turbidity, and low nutrient concentrations due to weak/null upwelling and light limitation make the Bay of Bengal a region of low primary productivity. Despite this, mesozooplankton biomass values, i.e. 2.9–104 mg C m−3 in the Central Bay and 1.3–31 mg C m−3 in the Western Bay, observed in the mixed layer (2–51 m) during the summer monsoon were in the same range as reported from the more productive Arabian Sea. Mesozooplankton biomass was five times and density 18 times greater at stations with signatures of cold-core eddies, causing a higher spatial heterogeneity in zooplankton distribution. Among the 27 taxonomic groups recorded during the season, Copepoda was the most abundant group in all samples followed by Chaetognatha. The dominant order of Copepoda, Calanoida, was represented by 132 species in a total of 163 species recorded. Oncaea venusta was the key copepod species in the Bay. In the Central Bay, the predominant copepod species were carnivorous/omnivorous vis-a-vis mostly herbivores in the Western Bay. Pleuromamma indica increased to its maximum abundance at 18°N in the Central Bay, coinciding with the lowest dissolved oxygen concentrations. The Central Bay had higher mesozooplankton biomass, copepod species richness and diversity than in the Western Bay. Although zooplankton biomass and densities were greater at the eddy stations, correlation between zooplankton and chl a was not statistically significant. It appears that the grazer mesozooplankton rapidly utilize the enhanced phytoplankton production in cold-core eddies.

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