Zooplankton community structure and copepod species composition are analysed in samples obtained during spring and winter from three areas of the northern Gulf of Mexico: near the Mississippi River outflow, off Cape San Blas, and in the central Gulf of Mexico. Samples from different regions were distinguishable in correspondence analysis of dominant species and/or functional groups. The near-surface communities of the Mississippi and central Gulf were particularly distinct while Cape San Blas was intermediate in both structure and specific character. Saltier waters directly beneath the Mississippi Plume yielded samples similar to those from near-surface waters well offshore. At the same time near-surface waters off the Mississippi and off Cape San Blass to the west were distinguishable even during spring when the outflow from the Mississippi was at its annual peak. These differences are consistent with the discharge and flow patterns of the Mississippi River plume and the northern Gulf and with systematic differences in such parameters as temperature, salinity and chlorophyll concentration. The implications of these observations upon the feeding environments of the larvae of commercially significant fish species are addressed since both zooplankton prey and larval predators appear to be particularly abundant in the Mississippi River plume environs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Aquatic Science