Flow effects on benthic grazing on phytoplankton by a Caribbean reef
Limnol. Oceanogr., 55(5), 2010, 1881-1892 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2010.55.5.1881
ABSTRACT: We present measurements of flows and fluxes of phytoplankton to Conch Reef, Florida, a Caribbean reef dominated by sponges and soft corals, located in 15 m of water offshore of Key Largo. Vertical profiles of chlorophyll a, a proxy for phytoplankton biomass, showed a near-bed depletion, indicating the existence of concentration boundary layers. Along with simultaneous measurements of velocity profiles, near-bed turbulence, and temperature stratification, these profiles were used to compute a, the mass transfer velocity of phytoplankton to the bed (i.e., the flux to the bed normalized by near-bed concentration). The a value ranged from -40 to +130 m d-1, with a significant linear positive relationship with shear velocity. The median value of a = 48 ± 20 m d-1 is larger than would be expected, given the observed population of filter-feeding sponges. Nonetheless, these large values of a are consistent with values found recently for another coral reef as well as for a soft bottom estuarine community. Taken as a whole, these measurements indicate that reefs with large roughness and/or energetic currents should be able to support higher biomasses of benthic organisms than would low relief reefs or reefs in sluggish waters.