Journal Article

Spatial dynamics of a nearshore, micronekton sound-scattering layer

Kelly J Benoit-Bird and Whitlow W.L Au

in ICES Journal of Marine Science

Published on behalf of ICES/CIEM

Volume 60, issue 4, pages 899-913
Published in print January 2003 | ISSN: 1054-3139
Published online January 2003 | e-ISSN: 1095-9289 | DOI:
Spatial dynamics of a nearshore, micronekton sound-scattering layer

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  • Environmental Science
  • Marine and Estuarine Biology


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In the Hawaiian Islands, there is a distinct resident community of micronekton, distributed along a narrow band where the upper underwater slopes of the islands meet the oceanic, mesopelagic environment. This mesopelagic boundary community serves as an important food resource to many animals. The goal of this work was to examine spatial heterogeneity of the Hawaiian mesopelagic boundary biomass at a range of scales, in the context of its diel vertical and horizontal migrations. A modified echosounder was used to sample the coasts of three Hawaiian Islands, permitting a range of scales from several meters to several kilometers to be assessed rapidly. The Hawaiian mesopelagic boundary community fits the hierarchical model of patch structure with patches within patches that are part of a larger-scale matrix of patches. Large differences in the overall distribution patterns of the mesopelagic boundary community exist along with a wide range of overall mesopelagic-animal densities. High animal-density locations have boundary-community layers with a large (kilometers) horizontal extent, and low animal-density locations have small (tens of meters), discrete patches. Higher animal-density locations are also more complex than low-density sites, with more levels of patchiness within the same range of spatial scales. Both time of day and distance from shore significantly affected the geometric and density characteristics as well as the distribution of aggregations within the boundary layer. Horizontal and vertical structures of the mesopelagic boundary community are also coupled. In high-density sites, there is strong vertical layering in acoustic-scattering strength while in low-density sites vertical acoustic structure is absent. The differences observed in the distribution of the mesopelagic boundary community at different levels of overall mesopelagic-animal density suggest biological forcing as the dominant mechanism. A description of heterogeneity in the mesopelagic boundary community in Hawaii is the first step in understanding its importance to both neritic and oceanic ecosystems and its potential for linking these two systems.

Keywords: mesopelagic boundary community; acoustic sampling; patchiness; heterogeneity; vertical structure; biological forcing; Hawaiian islands

Journal Article.  8319 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environmental Science ; Marine and Estuarine Biology

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