How biological clocks and changing environmental conditionsdetermine local population growth and species distribution inAntarctic krill (Euphausia superba): a conceptual model

Bettina.Meyer [ at ]


The Southern Ocean ecosystem is characterized by extreme seasonal changes in environmental factors such as day length, sea ice extent and food availability. The key species Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) has evolved metabolic and behavioural seasonal rhythms to cope with these seasonal changes. We investigate the switch between a physiological less active and active period for adult krill, a rhythm which seems to be controlled by internal biological clocks. These biological clocks can be synchronized by environmental triggers such as day length and food availability. They have evolved for particular environmental regimes to synchronize predictable seasonal environmental changes with important life cycle functions of the species. In a changing environment the time when krill is metabolically active and the time of peak food availability may not overlap if krill's seasonal activity is solely determined by photoperiod (day length). This is especially true for the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean where the spatio-temporal ice cover dynamics are changing substantially with rising average temperatures. We developed an individual-based model for krill to explore the impact of photoperiod and food availability on the growth and demographics of krill. We simulated dynamics of local krill populations (with no movement of krill assumed) along a south-north gradient for different triggers of metabolic activity and different levels of food availability below the ice. We also observed the fate of larval krill which cannot switch to low metabolism and therefore are likely to overwinter under ice. Krill could only occupy the southern end of the gradient, where algae bloom only lasts for a short time, when alternative food supply under the ice was high and metabolic activity was triggered by photoperiod. The northern distribution was limited by lack of overwintering habitat for krill larvae due to short duration of sea ice cover even for high food content under the ice. The variability of the krill's length-frequency distributions varied for different triggers of metabolic activity, but did not depend on the sea ice extent. Our findings suggest a southward shift of krill populations due to reduction in the spatial sea ice extent, which is consistent with field observations. Overall, our results highlight the importance of the explicit consideration of spatio-temporal sea ice dynamics especially for larval krill together with temporal synchronization through internal clocks, triggered by environmental factors (photoperiod and food) in adult krill for the population modelling of krill.

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Groeneveld, J. , Johst, K. , Kawaguchi, S. , Meyer, B. , Teschke, M. and Grimm, V. (2015): How biological clocks and changing environmental conditionsdetermine local population growth and species distribution inAntarctic krill (Euphausia superba): a conceptual model , Ecological Modelling, 303 , pp. 78-86 .

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