The Importance of Plankton in Pelagic Food Webs and Carbon Cycling

Decent Essays
The word plankton originates from the Greek word for “wandering.” Refers to the diverse group of plants and animals that spend some or all of their life cycle drifting in the water of oceans or freshwater lakes. Plankton is abundant and important within the marine environment. Most fo the Earth’s biomass, the mass of living organisms, consist of plankton adrift in the oceans. Ninety-eight percent of marine species are bottom dwelling, but the vast majority of the ocean’s biomass is planktonic. Many of these organisms are capable of locomotion, but are generally unable to move independently of currents and waves. This lack of strong swimming ability separates plankton from nekton, which include organisms that can control their…show more content…
Diversity in planktonic marine animals stems from a shifting balance between competition for food and avoidance of predators. As a result, a wide variety of planktonic animals inhabit the oceans. Phytoplanktons are primary producers because they use solar energy to convert CO2 and nutrients into carbohydrates and other molecules used by life. Despite limited knowledge of what small copepods eat, it is clear that many higher-trophic level consumers eat them. Numerous studies have shown that copepod nauplii and other small copepods are important prey of fish larvae, and other planktivores. Most studies of larval fish feeding published since 1984 continue to document the importance of small copepods as fish prey. Small copepods are abundant and are very important links in marine food webs. They serve as major grazers of phytoplankton, as components of the microbial loop by preying upon bacterio-plankton and heterotrophic protists, and as prey for ichthyoplankton and other larger pelagic carnivores. Small copepods exhibit various reproductive and feeding strategies which help maximize population size, in order to counter heavy losses due to predation. Accordingly, small copepods can become extremely abundant, and presumably exert substantial feeding impact on their prey, but such data are scarce. Our biomass, trophic ecology, and roles of small copepods in
Get Access