A study of the seasonal and interannual variability of phytoplankton and zooplankton assemblages in a significant marine ecosystem

Jochen Kaempf, Michelle Newman, Mark Doubell, Luciana Moller, Ryan Baring, Ana Redondo Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
65 Downloads (Pure)


The eastern Great Australian Bight (GAB) is a significant marine ecosystem, featuring a range of marine mammals and large pelagic fish including blue whales, sharks and tuna. Previous research has classified the region as generally oligotrophic, apart from late austral summer months when seasonal upwelling triggers phytoplankton blooms in the region. Based on multi-year field observations, this study analysed the interannual and interdecadal variability of the plankton community structure in this region. Pigment data indicate that nano- and pico-phytoplankton generally dominated the phytoplankton community structure with averages of 39% and 30% of the total biomass, including a relatively large proportion of nanophytoplankton (cryptophytes, haptophytes and prasinophytes) with cell sizes <5 µm, not resolved in microscopic cell counts. Nano- and pico-phytoplankton alone contributed ∼0.3 mg/m 3 to the chlorophyll-a signal and therefore sustained an overall mesotrophic environment year-round. Distinct diatom blooms developed during the upwelling season within concentrated subsurface layers where chlorophyll-a concentrations increased to >1 mg/m 3, characterising eutrophic conditions. The biomass of diatoms increased from <10% to ∼30% of total biomass. Diatom blooms coincided with relatively high abundances of three dominant zooplankton species (Oithona similis, Penilia avirostris and Microsetella norvegica) and/or the dinophyta Noctiluca scintillans, but events of high zooplankton abundance also occurred outside the upwelling season. The observational findings also show the occurrence of significant subsurface phytoplankton blooms in late spring, not reported before, that may also contribute to the ecosystem functioning of the region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-451
Number of pages18
Issue number2
Early online date6 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Marine ecosystem
  • Plankton research
  • Marine productivity


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