Seasonal and diel patterns in sedimentary flux of krill fecal pellets recorded by an echo sounder

Anders Røstad and Stein Kaartvedt

Limnol. Oceanogr., 58(6), 2013, 1985-1997 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2013.58.6.1985

ABSTRACT: We used a moored upward-facing 200 kHz echo sounder to address sedimentation of fecal pellets (FPs) from dielly migrating Meganyctiphanes norvegica. The echo sounder was located on the bottom at 150 m depth in the Oslofjord, Norway, and was cabled to shore for continuous measurements during winter and spring. Records of sinking pellets were for the first time observed with an echo sounder. Seasonal patterns of sedimentation of krill FPs were strongly correlated with data from continuous measurement of fluorescence, which illustrate the development of the spring bloom. Sedimenting particles were first observed as fluorescence values started to increase at the end of February and continued to increase until the bloom suddenly culminated at the end of March. This collapse of the bloom was detected on the echo sounder as a pulse of slowly sinking acoustic targets over a 2 d period. Prior to this event, there was a strong diel pattern in sedimentation, which correlated, with some time lag, with the diel migration of krill foraging at night near the surface. Pellet average sinking speeds ranged between 423 m d−1 and 804 m d−1, with a strong relation to pellet target strength, which is an acoustic proxy for size. This novel approach shows that echo sounders may be a valuable tool in studies of vertical pellet flux and, thereby, carbon flux, providing temporal resolution and direct observation of the sedimentation process, which are not obtained from standard methods.

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