Copepod community growth rates in relation to body size, temperature, and food availability in the East China Sea: a test of metabolic theory of ecology
Zooplankton play an essential role in marine food webs, and understanding how community-level growth rates of zooplankton vary in the field is critical for predicting how marine ecosystem function may vary in the face of environmental changes. Here, we used the artificial cohort method to examine the effects of temperature, body size, and chlorophyll concentration (a proxy for food) on weight-specific growth rates for copepod communities in the East China Sea. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that copepod community growth rates can be described by the metabolic theory of ecology (MTE), linking spatio-temporal variation of copepod growth rate with temperature and their body size. Our results generally agree with predictions made by the MTE and demonstrate that weight-specific growth rates of copepod communities in our study area are positively related with temperature and negatively related to body size. However, the regression coefficients of body size do not approach the theoretical predictions. Furthermore, we find that the deviation from the MTE predictions may be partly attributed to the effect of food availability (which is not explicitly accounted for by the MTE). In addition, significant difference in the coefficients of temperature and body size exists among taxonomic groups. Our results suggest that considering the effects of food limitation and taxonomy is necessary to better understand copepod growth rates under in situ conditions, and such effects on the MTE-based predictions need further investigation.