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What factors drive copepod community distribution in the Gulf of Gabes, Eastern Mediterranean Sea?

November 12, 2013

The spatial and temporal variations in copepod communities were investigated during four oceanographic cruises conducted between July 2005 and March 2007 aboard the R/V Hannibal. A close relationship was observed between the temperature, salinity, hydrographic properties and water masses characterising the Gulf of Gabes. Indeed, water thermal stratification began in May–June, and a thermocline was established at a 20-m depth, but ranged from 25 m in July to more than 30 m in September. The zooplankton community is dominated by copepods representing 69 % to 83 % of total zooplankton. Spatial and temporal variation of copepods in relation to environmental factors shows their close relationship with the hydrodynamic features of the water column. Thermal stratification in the column, established in summer, supports copepod development. In fact, copepod abundance increases gradually with rising water temperature and salinity, starting from the beginning of thermal stratification (May–June 2006) and lasting until its completion (July 2005 and September 2006). When the water column is well mixed (March 2007), copepod abundance decreased. Our finding shows that temperature and salinity seem to be the most important physical factors and thus strongly influence the taxonomic diversity and distribution of the copepod population. They are characterised by the dominance of Oithona nana, representing 75–86 % of total cyclopoid abundance. The most abundant species during the stratification period were O. nana, Acartia clausi and Stephos marsalensis in July 2005 and September 2006. However, during the mixing period, Euterpina acutifrons was more abundant, representing 21 % of the total. Unlike the copepod community, which is more abundant during the period of high stratification, phytoplankton proliferates during semi-mixed conditions.

Drira Z, Bel Hassen M, Ayadi H, Aleya L, in press. What factors drive copepod community distribution in the Gulf of Gabes, Eastern Mediterranean Sea?, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 2013, doi:10.1007/s11356-013-2250-4. Article.

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