Spatial and temporal habitat partitioning by zooplankton in the Bornholm Basin (central Baltic Sea)
The deep basins in the Baltic Sea such as the Bornholm Basin (BB) are subject to seasonal changes in the strength of physico-chemical stratification. These depth-related changes in key abiotic factors are strong drivers of habitat partitioning by the autochthonous zooplankton community. Species-specific ecophysiological preferences often result in both seasonal and inter-annual changes in vertical abundance that, when combined with depth-specific water currents, also lead to horizontal differences in spatial distribution. The present study documented the seasonal and depth-specific changes in the abundance and species composition of zooplankton in the BB based upon broad-scale survey data: 832 vertically-resolved (10 m) multinet samples collected at nine stations between March 2002 and May 2003. Changes in the zooplankton community were significantly correlated with changes in ambient hydrography. Each of five taxa (Bosmina coregoni maritima, Acartia spp., Pseudocalanus spp., Temora longicornis, Synchaeta spp.) contributed >10% to the zooplankton community composition. The appearance of cladocerans was mainly correlated with the phenology of thermocline development in the spring. The cladoceran B. coregoni maritima was a dominant member of this community during the warmest periods, preferring the surface waters above the thermocline. Copepods exhibited distinct, ontogenetic and seasonal changes in their distribution. The rotifers (Synchaeta sp.) were the most abundant zooplankton in May. Based on a multivariate approach and the evaluation of vertical distribution patterns, five major habitat utilisation modes were identified that were based, to a large extent, on the dynamics of thermal and haline stratification of the Baltic Sea. Our statistical analysis of one of the most thorough datasets collected on Baltic zooplankton in recent decades reveals some of the factors that make this stratified system highly dynamic with respect to the spatial overlap between predators and prey. As fish and gelatinous plankton often feed in distinct layers and/or exhibit feeding migrations, the inhomogeneous distribution of potential prey can result in a spatial mismatch. Based on the five modes identified at the community level for zooplankton, we discuss how climate-driven hydrographic variability may influence the strength of trophic coupling within the Bornholm Basin.