Mesozooplankton community distribution on the Agulhas Bank in autumn: Size structure and production

Margaux Noyon, Alex J. Poulton, Sarah Asdar, Riaan Weitz, Sarah L. C. Giering

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)


The Agulhas Bank on the tip of southern Africa, like other shelf seas, is a relatively productive environment which plays a crucial role in the biology and success of many commercially valuable fish species. Fish and their larvae depend on zooplankton to feed on but, despite their importance, little is known about zooplankton distribution and production on the Agulhas Bank. Here we present results from a survey conducted in March 2019 on the East and Central Agulhas Bank, investigating mesozooplankton abundance, biovolume, taxonomic composition, size distribution (normalised biovolume size spectrum (NBSS) approach) and secondary production. A clear cross-shore gradient was observed with the inner-shelf having higher abundance and biovolume of mesozooplankton dominated by small-size organisms, most likely mirroring higher overall productivity of the coastal waters, while the outer-shelf showed the opposite trend (i.e., low abundance and biovolume; shallow NBSS slopes). This general pattern on the outer-shelf was, however, disturbed in one location (between 24 and 25°E) with a distinguishable mesozooplankton community, most likely linked to the passage of a meander on the inshore side of the Agulhas Current. The Central Agulhas Bank was typified by high mesozooplankton biomass (∼4 g C m-2), comparable to upwelling areas and dominated by copepods and doliolids. High copepod biomass was observed in this region before and was linked to a feature called the “Cold Ridge”. However, during our survey, no such ridge was observed. The mixed layer depth was relatively deep (>20 m) and high Chlorophyll a concentration was measured at depth, despite low net primary production rates. We suggest that this region is prone to other mechanisms such as retention due to cyclonic circulation or processes injecting nutrients in the upper mixed layer that require further research. Secondary production on the Agulhas Bank was in the same range as other shelf seas (0.03–1.55 g C m-2 d-1) and was correlated with mesozooplankton biomass. The comparison of primary and secondary production, measured simultaneously, suggested that mesozooplankton exert a significant control on net primary production, and can, in some areas, be food-limited (e.g., Central Agulhas Bank and inshore waters).
Original languageEnglish
Article number105015
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
Early online date22 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • AARS activity
  • Continental shelf
  • Cross-shore gradient
  • Mesozooplankton production
  • Size spectrum
  • Western boundary current
  • ZooScan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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