The role of coastal zooplankton, and the species that make up the zooplankton community around the Falkland Islands is poorly understood. Using a combination of morphology and molecular techniques (DNA barcoding and metabarcoding), this project aims to identify the species that make up the microzooplankton community of the Falkland Islands.
Previous studies have suggested the Falkland Island marine environment is known as a ‘wasp-waist’ ecosystem, where species at a mid-trophic level (in this instance, zooplankton) control the ecosystem dynamics (as opposed to bottom-up or top-down control). As such, there are expected keystone species within this community, including the lobster krill, Munida gregaria, and amphipod, Themisto gaudichaudii. During this project, zooplankton samples will be collected at regular intervals throughout the year in order to better understand the variation in the seasonal abundance and distribution of species within the macrozooplankton community as well as improve the knowledge and understanding of the role these organisms play within the wider ecosystem.
This project also aims to investigate the interactions between species within the zooplankton community, as this section of the food web is generally considered as a single stage, however, it is expected that the zooplankton species will form their own food web. These interactions will be quantified through the use of stable isotope analysis, which allows for measurements of the accumulation of key isotopes up the food web.