Seasonal and spatial comparisons of phytoplankton growth and mortality rates due to microzooplankton grazing in the northern South China Sea
We conducted a comprehensive investigation on the microzooplankton herbivory effect on phytoplankton in the northern South China Sea (SCS) using the seawater dilution technique at surface and deep chlorophyll maximum (DCM) layers on two cruises (July–August of 2009 and January of 2010). We compared vertical (surface vs. DCM), spatial (onshore vs. offshore), and seasonal (summer vs. winter) differences of phytoplankton growth (μ 0) and microzooplankton grazing rates ( m). During summer, both μ 0 and m were significantly higher at the surface than at the DCM layer, which was below the mixed layer. During winter, surface μ 0 was significantly higher than at the DCM, while m was not significantly different between the two layers, both of which were within the mixed layer. Surface μ 0 was, on average, significantly higher in summer than in winter, while average surface m was not different between the two seasons. There were no cross-shelf gradients of μ 0 in summer or winter surface waters. In surface waters, μ 0 was not correlated with ambient nitrate concentrations, and the effect of nutrient enrichment on phytoplankton growth was not pronounced. There was a decreasing trend of m from shelf to basin surface waters in summer, but not in winter. Microzooplankton grazing effect on phytoplankton ( m/μ 0) was relatively small in the summer basin waters, indicating a decoupling of microzooplankton grazing and phytoplankton growth at this time. On average, microzooplankton grazed 73% and 65% of the daily primary production in summer and winter, respectively.