The influence of contrasting freshwater inflows on the feeding ecology and food resources of zooplankton in two eastern Cape estuaries, South Africa

Grange, Neil (1993) The influence of contrasting freshwater inflows on the feeding ecology and food resources of zooplankton in two eastern Cape estuaries, South Africa. PhD thesis, Rhodes University.

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Abstract

The trophodynamic implications of reduced freshwater inflow on the zooplankton of eastern Cape estuaries was investigated by a comparison of the community composition and standing stocks, grazing rates and food resources of zooplankton in two systems, the Kariega and the Great Fish estuaries, which are subject to contrasting freshwater inflow. The climate of South Africa is semi-arid, and the low rainfall, coupled with high evaporative loss, result in the region having one of the lowest conversions of rainfall to run-off in the world. In addition, many of the major rivers are extensively impounded, consequently, estuaries often experience prolonged periods of zero or reduced freshwater inflow. The amount of freshwater available for estuarine management in the future is expected to decline as the demand for domestic, agricultural and industrial use increases. The influence of climate, tidal amplitude and wave action are essentially constant, consequently, the individual characteristics of an estuary are determined largely by the indirect influences of catchment size and regulation. Estuaries along the eastern Cape coast range from negative hypersaline systems, to positive systems in which a salinity gradient is well established. The Kariega estuary is a homogeneous marine estuary as a result of minimal freshwater inflow, whereas the Great Fish estuary receives sustained freshwater inflow and is partially-stratified. The quality and quantity of particulate food resources for suspension-feeders depended to a large extent on the allochthonous import of material associated with freshwater inflow. Nutrients, rather than light penetration of the watercolumn are the major factor limiting phytoplankton standing stocks. In the Kariega estuary, phytoplankton standing stocks were low (up to 1.0 μg l⁻¹) and the estuary is classified as oligotrophic. Correlation analyses indicated that lower quality detritus, originating from fringing macrophytes, may contribute substantially to suspended particulate organic material. Phytoplankton food resources were considerably higher in the Great Fish estuary (up to 21.8 μg ⁻¹) which is classified as mesotrophic/eutrophic, and correlation analyses indicated that phytoplankton comprised the dominant fraction of the particulate organic material. Although this suggested that the organic material was of a higher quality, the seston was "masked" by a higher suspended inorganic load. Consequently, the organic fraction comprised between 13 and 22% of total particulate material in the Great Fish estuary, compared with between 20 and 39% in the Kariega estuary. Food resources demonstrated a fairly uniform distribution along the length of the Kariega estuary and exhibited a slight seasonal increase during warmer months. By contrast, the point source influence of freshwater inflow resulted in a spatial gradient of food resources in the Great Fish estuary with higher values recorded towards the upper reaches. There was evidence that higher concentrations of particulate material in the upper reaches are also a consequence of hydrodynamic trapping. There was no marked seasonal pattern in the availability of food resources which were generally elevated in response to sporadic pulses of freshwater inflow. Tidal currents were responsible for elevating suspended food resources by re-suspension of material from the sediments. This effect was probably of greater importance in the Kariega estuary where food resources were generally limiting. In the Kariega estuary, the zooplankton community was dominated by calanoid copepods of the genera Acartia and Pseudodiaptomus. However, in the Great Fish estuary, the community was dominated by the my sid Mesopodopsis siabberi, and the calanoid P. hessei. Community biomass generally reflected the trophic status of the estuary. The mean seasonal biomass recorded in the Kariega estuary was 38 mg m⁻³ compared with 1597 mg m⁻³ in the Great Fish estuary. Greater spatial variability in community biomass was evident in the Great Fish estuary, partly in response to the food resource gradient, but also due to the inability of the mysid shrimps, which dominated the community biomass, to penetrate the lower salinity water of the upper reaches. Zooplankton in the Kariega estuary demonstrated a seasonal pattern of abundance whereas in the Great Fish estuary, community biomass was elevated in response to sporadic pulses of freshwater inflow. Grazing rates, measured in situ using a modified Gliwicz-Haney chamber, indicated that the zooplankton communities were capable of "clearing" substantial proportions of the watercolumn at certain times of the year. The pattern of grazing pressure over a diel cycle was examined in relation to the diel vertical migration movements of the zooplankton. Higher nighttime grazing rates were generally associated with the greater abundance of zooplankton resulting from the movement of zooplankton into the watercolumn after dusk, and their return to the sediments at dawn. Seasonal estimates of diel grazing pressure, extrapolated from daytime and nighttime feeding rates, indicated that the zooplankton "cleared" up to 40% of the watercolumn in a day in the Kariega estuary, and up to 120% d⁻¹ in the Great Fish estuary. However, values of around 25% d⁻¹ in the Kariega estuary, and 50 to 80% d⁻¹ in the Great Fish estuary, were not uncommon. Multiple regression analyses were used in an attempt to explain the influence of environmental factors on the variation in in situ grazing rates. These attempts were largely unsuccessful and the possible reasons, as well as recommended improvements to the methods used, are discussed. Seston concentration in the estuaries was highly variable as a result of the effects of tidal re-suspension and freshwater inflow. Consequently, further laboratory-based experiments were carried out to examine the influence of seston concentration on the filtration rates of the dominant calanoid copepods. Results indicated that some of the unexplained variability in the community filtration rates may be attributed to differences in species-specific response to changes in seston concentration.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Reduced freshwater inflow, Trophodynamic implications, Zooplankton, Eastern Cape, South Africa, Community composition, Standing stocks, Grazing rates, Food resources, Kariega estuary, Great Fish estuary, Estuarine management
Subjects:Q Science > QL Zoology > Invertebrates
Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Science > Zoology & Entomology
Supervisors:Allanson, B.R.
ID Code:4171
Deposited By: Philip Clarke
Deposited On:05 Dec 2012 09:10
Last Modified:05 Dec 2012 09:10
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