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The Ecology of Lough Ine

J. A. Kitching, F. J. Ebling, J. C. Gamble, R. Hoare, A. A. Q. R. McLeod and T. A. Norton
Journal of Animal Ecology
Vol. 45, No. 3 (Oct., 1976), pp. 731-758
DOI: 10.2307/3578
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3578
Page Count: 29
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The Ecology of Lough Ine
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Abstract

(1) The Western Trough of Lough Ine forms a trench between 40 m and 50 m in depth. It communicates with the inflow area and Rapids only via the main body of the South Basin, which has a maximum depth of about 25 m. (2) Thermal stratification of Lough Ine was found to become established from the end of March, and to break down in the middle of November. There is a steep thermocline in summer, extending from -20 to -30 m and centred at about -23 to -25 m. It is inferred that the level of the thermocline is determined by the topography. (3) There is a severe depletion of the dissolved oxygen of the hypolimnion during the period of stratification, with levels of less than 5% saturation in late summer. The mud surface turns black. Some stagnation can also occur in winter. (4) The flora and fauna of the mud bottom of the Western Trough has been investigated by grab sampling and by diving, and the major bottom facies of the whole lough have been mapped by divers. (5) A characteristic `mud-burrow zone' occupies the bottom at -17 to -25 m, with Nephrops norvegicus, Calocaris macandreae, Turritella cummunis, Amphiura chiajei and associated spp. (6) From -25 m downwards there is a `spionid zone' characterized by a carpet of upwardly projecting tubes of Pseudopolydora pulchra with an associated fauna. The tubes were found to be inhabited by living P. pulchra and reached densities averaging about 8000 per m2 in July. (7) By mid-August no living animals except the burrowing lamellibranch Corbula gibba were taken in grab samples from depths exceeding 30 m. Examination by the divers showed that from -28 m downward the tubes had collapsed and were disintegrating. No living animals were found in grab samples from -30 m downwards in September. (8) Groups of crabs were suspended at various depths in the Western Trough for two days in survival tests. There was good survival at all depths in July, but in late August almost all from below the thermocline were dead when retrieved. We conclude that oxygen deficiency (possibly with some accumulation of H2S) regularly destroys the benthic fauna in late summer.

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