SEASONAL GROWTH AND SENESCENCE IN CONTINENTAL-SHELF ECOSYSTEMS - A TEST OF THE SEEP HYPOTHESIS
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The hypothesis that continental shelf ecosystems export a major fraction of the carbon produced by the phytoplankton during the spring bloom was tested during the Shelf Edge Exchange Processes (SEEP) experiment off the north-east coast of the United States in 1984. The total benthic standing stocks in terms of organic carbon (macrofauna, meiofauna and bacteria) have been estimated in the SEEP area. Their preponderance on the continental shelf was partial evidence that little organic matter escapes to the upper continental slope. Measurements of the metabolism of the biota allowed calculation of turnover times of organic detritus and the total biota. The turnover time of detritus increased as grain size decreased, suggesting that fine-grained deposits contain mostly refractory, non-reactive compounds, especially on the deep slope. Turnover times of the total biota were about the same in the coarse-as in the fine-grained shelf deposits, but a far larger fraction of the turnover was attributed to the bacteria in the fine sediments. On average, about 25 per cent of the primary production appeared to be utilized by the aerobic benthos on the continental shelf in the SEEP area. The role of anaerobes at depth in the sediments remains uncertain. This study, along with a review of other recent work, leads to the conclusion that only a small fraction of continental shelf phytodetritus is exported across a distinct shelf-slope hydrographic frontal system. What is not consumed in the spring is utilized on the shelf during the ensuing stratified season. More open ended ecosystems may export production more readily. 1987 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
SOUTH AFRICAN JOURNAL OF MARINE SCIENCE-SUID-AFRIKAANSE TYDSKRIF VIR SEEWETENSKAP
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