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Stuck between a rock and a hard place: zooplankton vertical distribution and hypoxia in the Gulf of Finland, Baltic Sea

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Abstract

Zooplankton often migrate vertically to deeper dark water during the day to avoid visual predators such as fish, a process which can strengthen benthic–pelagic coupling. In the Gulf of Finland, Baltic Sea, a pronounced hypoxic layer develops when there is an inflow of anoxic bottom water from the Central Baltic Sea, which could be a barrier for vertical migrants. Here, we report an acoustic study of the distributions of crustacean zooplankton (mysid shrimp and the copepod Limnocalanus macrurus), gelatinous zooplankton (Aurelia aurita) and fish. Zooplankton trawl nets were used to ground-truth acoustic data. Vertical profiles of oxygen concentration were taken, and the physiological impact of hypoxia on mysids was investigated using biochemical assays. We hypothesised that the vertical distribution of zooplankton and fish would be significantly affected by vertical heterogeneity of oxygen concentrations because anoxia and hypoxia are known to affect physiology and swimming behaviour. In addition, we hypothesised that mysids present in areas with hypoxia would exhibit a preparatory antioxidant response, protecting them from oxidative damage during migrations. The acoustic data showed peaks of crustacean zooplankton biomass in hypoxic (−1) and low oxygen (2–4 mL L−1) concentrations (depth >75 m), whereas fish shoals and A. aurita medusae were found in normoxic (5–6 mL L−1) upper water layers (−1) may provide some zooplankton species with a refuge from visual predators such as fish.
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1429-1440
JournalMarine Biology
Volume162
Issue number7
Early online date10 Jun 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015

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