Phytoplankton and microzooplankton community structure and the impact of microzooplankton grazing were investigated during a one-day study of an Emiliania huxleyi bloom off the coast of Devon during July 1999. Vertical profiles were undertaken at four stations, along a transect which crossed from a low reflectance to a high reflectance area as seen by satellite imagery. Microzooplankton dilution grazing experiments, coupled with pigment analysis to determine class specific grazing rates, were performed at two of these stations.
Highest concentrations of chlorophyll-a (5·3 mg m−3) and accessory pigments were measured inside the area of high reflectance. Phytoplankton standing stocks ranged between 1588 and 5460 mg C m−2 and were also highest in the area of high reflectance. The phytoplankton community was dominated by coccolithophores and diatoms in low reflectance waters and by photosynthetic dinoflagellates in high reflectance areas. Microzooplankton standing stocks ranged between 905 and 2498 mg C m−2. Protozoa dominated the microzooplankton community. The protozoan community comprised a relatively even mixture of heterotrophic dinoflagellates, non-choreotrich and choreotrich ciliates in low reflectance waters. However, non-choreotrich ciliates dominated the communities inside the high reflectance area. Of the heterotrophic ciliates, a predatory ciliate Askenasia sp. dominated both non-choreotrich abundance and biomass.
Results from grazing experiments showed that 60–64% of the chlorophyll-a biomass was consumed daily by the microzooplankton. Highest grazing mortality was associated with peridinin (dinoflagellates) and alloxanthin (cryptophytes). Lower grazing rates were found on fucoxanthin (diatoms and prymnesiophytes). Our results indicate that grazing on E. huxleyi in the area of remotely sensed high reflectance was low and highest grazing was on photosynthetic dinoflagellates and cryptophytes.