Comparison of benthic and pelagic suspension feeding in shallow water habitats of the Northeastern Baltic Sea


  • Conflicts of interest
    The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Velda Lauringson, Estonian Marine Institute, University of Tartu, Mäealuse 10a, 12618 Tallinn, Estonia.


Combining field experiments with the biomass distribution data of dominant suspension feeders we compared the benthic and pelagic suspension feeding rates in shallow non-tidal brackish water coastal habitats. We found that pelagic grazing exceeded benthic grazing in almost all cases, on average from 14 to 4819 times depending on the site. Benthic grazing rates were related to site-specific environmental parameters and showed no relationship with water chlorophyl a (Chl a) content, whereas pelagic grazing rates varied both spatially and temporally and were related to water Chl a content. Our results indicate that in several shallow coastal habitats, pelagic suspension feeding substantially exceeds benthic suspension feeding. This suggests that pelagic recycling is higher than the amounts of energy redirected from pelagic to benthic food webs by benthic suspension feeders. These results increase our knowledge of the energy flows in coastal ecosystems.