Krill excretion and its effect on primary production

Pascal Lehette*, Antonio Tovar-Sánchez, Carlos M. Duarte, Santiago Hernández-León

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


During the austral summer, zooplankton excretion along the western Antarctic Peninsula was studied in a contrasting hydrographic regime including coastal and oceanic waters. In coastal waters, ammonium supply by mesozooplankton indicated a low contribution to fuel primary production. In oceanic waters, however, Antarctic krill Euphausia superba contributed a significant percentage to the nitrogen requirements of primary producers. Thus, the ontogenetic migration of adult krill during austral summer should be a key factor regulating the regenerated ammonium for primary production. A significant coupling of ammonium concentration in the water column and in situ krill biomass supported the significant role of krill excretion in the epipelagic realm. Results from short-term experiments with E. superba indicated that ammonium excretion rates were much higher than previously found. Because the use of experimental metabolic rates that are close to field rates would be more appropriate, we suggest to re-assess the ammonium supplied by the epipelagic marine biota. Moreover, the outcomes of experimental krill excretion rates, in situ measurements of ammonium and a review of data on primary production suggest that Antarctic krill sustain a high proportion of the daily phytoplankton production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-38
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Jul 12 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Ammonium
  • Austral summer
  • Euphausia superba
  • Krill
  • Primary production
  • Southern Ocean
  • Western Antarctic Peninsula

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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