In offshore waters with relatively low primary production, drifting seaweeds composed of Sargassum species form an identical ecosystem such as an oasis in desert. Commercially important pelagic fishes such as jack mackerel (Trachurus japonicus) and yellow tail (Seriola quinqueradiata) spawn in East China Sea pass their juvenile period accompanying drifting seaweeds. Therefore drifting seaweeds are very important not only in offshore ecosystem but also fishery resources. However the distribution of drifting seaweeds in East China Sea has scarcely known. Then we conducted two research cruises of R/V Hakuho-Maru in May 2002 and in March 2004. During the cruises, drifting seaweeds were visually observed from the bridge and sampled with a towing net. The observation revealed that the drifting seaweeds were distributed along the front between the Kuroshio Current and coastal waters and mainly composed of one seaweed species, Sargassum horneri (Turner) C. Agardh from spring to early summer. There are no reports on geographical distribution of this species in the coasts south of southern Kyushu Island in Japan. Kuroshio Current flows northeastward there. Buoys with GPS attached to drifting seaweeds released off Zhejiang Province, China, in March 2005 to track their transport. Their positions monitored by ORBCOM satellite showed that they were transported to the area in East China Sea, where the drifting seaweeds were observed during the cruises, in 2 months. These facts suggest that S. horneri detached from Chinese coast in March or months earlier than March could be transported to fringe area of continental shelf and waters influenced by Kuroshio Current from March to May. Therefore the Sargassum forests, especially S. horneri, along the Chinese coast play a very important role in the ecosystem of the East China Sea as a source of drifting seaweeds. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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