Bacterial consumption of DOC during transport through a temperate estuary
Recent changes in structure and functioning of the interior Black Sea ecosystem are studied by a series of simulations using a one-dimensional, vertically resolved, coupled physical-biochemical model. The simulations are intended to provide a better understanding of how the pelagic food web structure responds to increasing grazing pressure by gelatinous carnivores (medusae Aurelia aurita and ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi) during the past 2 decades. The model is first shown to represent typical eutrophic ecosystem conditions of the late 1970s and early 1980s. This simulation reproduces reasonably well the observed planktonic food web structure at a particular location of the Black Sea for which a year-long data set is available from 1978. Additional simulations are performed to explore the role of the Mnemiopsis-dominated ecosystem in the late 1980s. They are also validated by extended observations from specific years. The results indicate that the population outbreaks of the gelatinous species, either Aurelia or Mnemiopsis, reduce mesozooplankton grazing and lead to increased phytoplankton blooms as observed throughout the 1980s and 1990s in the Black Sea. The peaks of phytoplankton, mesozooplankton, Noctiluca, and gelatinous predator biomass distributions march sequentially as a result of prey-predator interactions. The late winter diatom bloom and a subsequent increase in mesozooplankton stocks are robust features common to all simulations. The autotrophs and heterotrophs, however, have different responses during the rest of the year, depending on the nature of grazing pressure exerted by the gelatinous predators. In the presence of Mnemiopsis, phytoplankton have additional distinct and pronounced bloom episodes during the spring and summer seasons. These events appear with a 2 month time shift in the ecosystem prior to introduction of Mnemiopsis.