Distribution of the Amphipod Diporeia in Lake Superior: The Ring of Fire

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Diporeia, formerly the dominant benthic macroinvertebrate in the Great Lakes, remains a keystone species in Lake Superior. Little is known, however, about fine scale amphipod distributions, especially as influenced by the production, transport and transformation of energy resources. Here, we document the distribution and abundance of Diporeia along 19 transects around the lake's perimeter. Regions of elevated density, averaging 958±408Diporeia/m2 (mean±S.D.) were observed along all transects, typically within slope habitat (depth of 30-125m). Waters shoreward (shelf habitat, < 30m) and lakeward (profundal habitat, > 125m) of these regions supported significantly lower densities, averaging 239±178/m2 and 106±59/m2, respectively. Amphipods within regions of elevated density, termed here the Ring of Fire, account for two-thirds of the lakewide population while occupying only one-quarter of the benthic habitat. The Ring of Fire, observed lakewide as a band averaging 14.2±9.4km in width, is characterized as a region of transitional sediment deposition with gentle slope, proximate to nearshore locations of elevated primary production. Within the Ring of Fire exceptionally high densities are found in the south central region, where the Keweenaw Current and slope bathymetries serve to funnel production from adjoining regions of high production. Density measurements for the 173 stations sampled here are used to estimate lakewide Diporeia standing stock (22.5-37.7trillion individuals, 4.4-7.4Gg dry weight, 2.1-3.5Gg C), individual and biomass density (274-460/m2, 0.05-0.09gDW/m2, 0.03-0.04gC/m2) and areal (0.02-0.03gC/m2/yr) and total (1.6-2.6GgC/yr) production. © 2013 International Association for Great Lakes Research.

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Journal of Great Lakes Research