A mathematical model was developed to represent the dynamics of predation and assimilation of ingested material by heterotrophic marine micro-zooplankton. Predation rate was made a rectangular hyperbolic function of prey carbon (C) concentration modified to simulate the prey selectivity that these organisms have been observed experimentally to exhibit in response to prey nutritional quality. We chose prey N:C ratio as an index of selectivity and related both the maximum predation rate (PM) and the assimilation efficiency (AE) to changes in prey nitrogen:carbon (N:C). Changes in PM simulated the phenomena of "surge feeding" and "prey rejection". Changes in AE simulated sub-optimal assimilation of material from ingested prey, which in turn, served to decrease the ingestion rate on this material. The model was parameterised using laboratory data sets that followed ingestion of non-growing phytoplankton prey of different N:C ratio by a micro-flagellate predator. Investigative simulations in transient conditions, incorporating growing prey and hence with changing N:C ratio, indicated both PM and AE influenced the quantitative and temporal dynamics of C transfer to the higher trophic level. In particular, we noted that although various model formulations predicted similar trophic transfer of C, this was achieved on very different time scales. The inclusion of heterotrophic micro-zooplankton within food web models is a necessary step in accurate prediction of pelagic nutrient flux but requires physiological models carefully parameterised and tested in both steady state and transient conditions to ensure accurate simulation. (C) 2003 Editions scientifiques et medicales Elsevier SAS. All rights reserved.
- FOOD WEBS
- PREY SELECTION