Nematode community dynamics over an annual production cycle in the central North Sea

M Schratzberger, R Forster, F Goodsir, S Jennings

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Nematode species composition, trophic structure and body size distributions were followed over an annual production cycle in the central North Sea; to test responses to temporally changing food quality and quantity in the sediment. Changes in the phytoplankton concentration in the water column were quantitatively reflected in the concentration of chlorophyll a and breakdown products in the sediment, with higher concentrations in spring and autumn following blooms, and lower concentrations in summer and winter. The taxonomic and trophic structure of nematode communities differed significantly among stations over relatively short distances, potentially masking some of the temporal dynamics. Spatio-temporal differences in nematode species composition were linked to changes in the quality and quantity of organic material reaching the seabed, reflecting a species-specific response to the nutritional quality of sedimenting organic material and the biochemical changes in the sediment associated with its decomposition. The size distributions of selected nematode species indicated that most species bred continuously throughout the sampling period, although one species, the epigrowth feeder Spilophorella paradoxa, had periods of increased growth following the deposition of the spring phytoplankton bloom. There was no consistent temporal relationship between the trophic composition of nematode communities and spring chlorophyll a or carbon sedimentation, most likely a result of the trophic plasticity of most feeding types and the capacity of the community to use both freshly sedimented material as well as the subsequent breakdown products and refractory organic matter. Community metrics implied that there were small responses to the seasonal production cycle, but these belied strong responses of a few species with life histories that allowed them to track the availability of suitable food resources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)508-519
Number of pages12
JournalMarine Environmental Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008

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