Salinity regulation of copepod egg production in a large microtidal estuary
Salinity is a key variable for ecological processes in estuaries. Acartia tonsa is a typical estuarine copepod whose responses to salinity have been thoroughly studied in the laboratory. However, results cannot be extrapolated to the field, and formal comparisons between lab and field responses to salinity were not attempted. Here we compare lab-based with field copepod egg production rates (EPR) from the Río de la Plata estuary (RPE), with focus on A. tonsa. Field work was conducted between 2009 and 2011 in the mixing zone of the RPE. Water temperature, salinity and chlorophyll-a varied over ample ranges (temperature: 10.54 - 24.56ºC, salinity: 2.83 - 32.99, chlorophyll-a: 0.62 - 7.27 mg m-3). A. tonsa was the strongly dominant species. EPR ranged between 6.7 and 95.7 eggs female-1 day-1, and correlated to salinity, temperature (weakly), but not to chlorophyll. The relationship between A. tonsa’s EPR (EPRAT) and salinity was consistent with that obtained under laboratory conditions: a humped pattern with a maximum at intermediate salinities. However, differences were also evident, e.g., higher EPRAT was measured in the field. We speculate that discrepancies derive from nutritional differences between field and reference (laboratory) data sets. Besides salinity, food quality and quantity may be first order drivers of A. tonsa’s productivity in the RPE.