Salp-falls in the Tasman Sea: a major food input to deep-sea benthos

Publisher:
Inter Research
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Marine Ecology Progress Series, 2013, 491 pp. 165 - 175
Issue Date:
2013-01
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Large, fast-sinking carcasses (food-falls) are an important source of nutrition to deep-sea benthic communities. In 2007 and 2009, mass depositions of the salp Thetys vagina were observed on the Tasman Sea floor between 200 and 2500 m depth, where benthic crustaceans were observed feeding on them. Analysis of a long-term (1981 to 2011) trawl survey database determined that salp biomass (wet weight, WW) in the eastern Tasman Sea regularly exceeds 100 t km-3 yr-1, with biomasses as high as 734 t km-3 recorded in a single trawl. With fast sinking rates, salp fluxes to the seafloor occur year-round. Salps, like jellyfish, have been considered to be of low nutritional value; however, biochemical analyses revealed that T. vagina has a carbon (31% dry weight, DW) and energy (11.00 kJ g-1 DW) content more similar to that of phytoplankton blooms, copepods and fish than to that of jellyfish, with which they are often grouped. The deposition of the mean yearly biomass (4.81 t km-2 WW) of salps recorded from the trawl database in the Tasman Sea represents a 330% increase to the carbon input normally estimated for this region. Given their abundance, rapid export to the seabed and high nutritional value, salp carcasses are likely to be a significant input of carbon to benthic food webs, which, until now, has been largely overlooked.
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