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Dynamics of meiofaunal assemblages on the continental shelf and deep-sea sediments of the Cretan Sea (NE Mediterranean): relationships with seasonal changes in food supply
Danovaro, R.; Tselepides, A.; Otegui, A.; Della Croce, N. (2000). Dynamics of meiofaunal assemblages on the continental shelf and deep-sea sediments of the Cretan Sea (NE Mediterranean): relationships with seasonal changes in food supply. Prog. Oceanogr. 46(2-4): 367-400
In: Progress in Oceanography. Pergamon: Oxford,New York,. ISSN 0079-6611, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Danovaro, R., more
  • Tselepides, A., more
  • Otegui, A.
  • Della Croce, N.

    Quantitative information on metazoan meiofaunal abundance and biomass was obtained from three continental shelf (at 40, 100 and 200 m depth) and four deep-sea stations (at 540, 700, 940 and 1540 m depth) in the Cretan Sea (South Aegean Sea, NE Mediterranean). Samples were collected on a seasonal basis (from August 1994 to September 1995) with the use of a multiple corer. Meiofaunal abundance and biomass on the continental shelf of the Cretan Sea were high, in contrast to the extremely low values reported for the bathyal sediments that showed values comparable to those reported for abyssal and hadal environments. In order to explain the spatial and seasonal changes in metazoan meiofauna these data were compared with: (1) the concentrations of `food indicators' (such as proteins, lipids, soluble carbohydrates and CPE) (2) the bacterial biomass (3) the flux of labile organic compounds to the sea floor at a fixed station (D7, 1540 m depth). Highly significant relationships between meiofaunal parameters and CPE, protein and lipid concentrations and bacterial biomass were found. Most of the indicators of food quality and quantity (such as CPE, proteins and carbohydrates) showed a clear seasonality with highest values in February and lowest in September. Such changes were more evident on the continental shelf rather than at deeper depths. On the continental shelf, significant seasonal changes in meiofaunal density were related to changes in the input of labile organic carbon whereas meiofaunal assemblages on the deep-sea stations showed time-lagged changes in response to the food input recorded in February 95. At all deep-sea stations meiofaunal density increased with a time lag of 2 months. Indications for a time-lagged meiofaunal response to the food inputs were also provided by the increase in nauplii densities during May 95 and the increase in individual biomass of nematodes, copepods and polychaetes between February and May 1995. The lack of strong seasonal changes in deep sea meiofaunal density suggests that the supply of organic matter below 500 m is not strong enough to support a significant meiofaunal development. Below 700 m depth >92% of the total biomass in the sediment was represented by bacteria. The ratio of bacterial to meiofaunal biomass increased with increasing water depth indicating that bacteria are probably more effective than meiofauna in exploiting refractory organic compounds. These data lead us to hypothesise that the deep-sea sediments of the Cretan Sea are largely dependent upon a benthic microbial loop.

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