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Diel variations of marine snow concentration in surface waters and implications for particle flux in the sea

, : Diel variations of marine snow concentration in surface waters and implications for particle flux in the sea. Deep-Sea Research Part I Oceanographic Research Papers 47(3): 367-395, March

Successive measurements of the size distribution and abundance of marine snow in the upper 100 m of the Santa Barbara Channel, California, with an in situ still camera system following 11 tagged water masses revealed a consistent pattern of nighttime decreases in the abundance of large particles. A net nocturnal reduction in particulate flux from the upper 100 m as calculated from camera profiles occurred in 75% of the day-night comparisons, and nighttime aggregate carbon losses resulted in a 38% average reduction in camera-derived aggregate flux. Intensive investigation of three stations for 24-48 h each indicated that nighttime decreases in aggregate concentrations and derived aggregate flux could be registered throughout the observed water column. Nocturnal decreases in marine snow concentration are unlikely to result from diel variations in the production of marine snow either as feeding webs of zooplankton or through variations in aggregation rates of smaller particles. Moreover, measured diel variations in the intensity of surface mixing and convective overturn during one of the 24 h deployments were not intense enough to produce aggregate fragmentation and reduced aggregate flux. Nighttime increases in large crustacean zooplankton (i.e., euphausiids and the large copepod Calanus pacificus) could explain some or all of the reduction in aggregate abundance at most stations. Fragmentation and consumption of marine snow by migrating macrozooplankton could produce our observed synchronous diel cycles in marine snow concentration. This is the first empirical evidence of a diel pattern in the concentration and calculated particulate flux of large sinking particles in near-surface waters. The data presented here are consistent with the only other existing diel study, which also reported decreases in marine snow abundance at night at 270 m depths in the oceanic north Atlantic. Diel variations in the sizes and concentrations of marine snow may impact water column processes dependent upon particle availability and size, such as grazing and remineralization, and may generate a diel cycle of food availability to the benthos.


DOI: 10.1016/s0967-0637(99)00063-1

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