Significant contribution of passively sinking copepods to downward export flux in Arctic waters
Limnol. Oceanogr., 54(6), 2009, 1894-1900 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2009.54.6.1894
ABSTRACT: Typically, all undecomposed metazoans found in formalin-poisoned cups of sediment traps are considered to be active intruders (or swimmers) and are removed to prevent an overestimation of the downward particle flux. However, intact metazoans dead before entering the trap should be included in the estimation of downward flux of carbon. Arctic copepods collected in the field were killed either by formalin to mimic death by actively swimming into the formalin-poisoned cups, or by crowding or high temperature and then preserved in formalin to simulate death before entering the trap. In the crowding and heat treatments, 64% of Calanus hyperboreus and C. glacialis and 44% of Pareuchaeta glacialis differed from copepods killed by formalin in the postmortem posture of the antennules or swimming legs. These frequencies were used to estimate the contribution of passively sinking copepods (PSCs) to the particulate organic carbon (POC) flux measured by a sediment trap moored at 70 m in the Beaufort Sea (Canadian sector of the Arctic Ocean). PSCs represented only a small fraction (<5%) of the copepods collected in the trap, thus justifying the removal of swimmers from samples to avoid a massive overestimation of fluxes. Nevertheless, PSCs contributed 36% of the overall POC flux of 6.8 g C m-2 yr-1, and discarding them along with the swimmers would have resulted in a significant underestimation of downward export. Given their rich carbon content (up to 50%), PSCs could be an important food resource for pelagic and benthic scavengers.