What controls microzooplankton biomass and herbivory rate across marginal seas of China?

Liu, Kailin and Chen, Bingzhang and Zheng, Liping and Su, Suhong and Huang, Bangqin and Chen, Mianrun and Liu, Hongbin (2020) What controls microzooplankton biomass and herbivory rate across marginal seas of China? Limnology and Oceanography. ISSN 0024-3590

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      Abstract

      Microzooplankton are the primary herbivores and nutrient regenerators in the marine food web, but their importance is often underestimated, and the quantitative relationships between environmental factors and the biomass and herbivory rate of microzooplankton remain obscure. To fill this gap, we conducted 224 dilution experiments to measure microzooplankton biomass and herbivory rate across a vast area of the marginal seas of China. To gain the potential mechanisms controlling microzooplankton herbivory, we also use a model that combines the Metabolic Theory of Ecology and the functional responses of grazing to quantify the effects of temperature, phytoplankton biomass, and microzooplankton biomass on microzooplankton grazing rate. We estimate an activation energy of 0.51 eV of microzooplankton and found that the Holling III function best described the functional response of microzooplankton grazing with a maximal ingestion rate of 4.76 d −1 at 15°C and a half-saturation constant of 0.27 μM N. We also find that microzooplankton biomass scales with phytoplankton biomass with an exponent of 0.77, consistent with the general 3/4 scaling law found in other ecosystems. This scaling relationship is accompanied by a shift from ciliates to heterotrophic dinoflagellates with increasing phytoplankton biomass. Our results provide empirical patterns that will be vital to parameterize and validate marine ecosystem models, particularly in China seas.