Measurements of the density of deep pelagic bioluminescent zooplankton (BL) were made with the Intensified Silicon Intensifier Target (ISIT) profiler in the Ligurian, Tyrrhenian, Adriatic, Ionian Seas and the Strait of Sicily from ~300m to near seafloor. Mean BL densities ranged from 2.61m-3at 500-1000m depth in the Adriatic Sea to 0.01m-3at 4000-5000m depth in the E Ionian Sea. We investigated drivers of spatial variation of deep pelagic BL density. Linear regression was applied between surface chlorophyll a (Chl a) concentration and underlying BL density. Chl a values were determined from satellite derived 100km radius composites (six 10-day means per ISIT deployment, over preceding 60 days). At 500-1000m depth we found a significant positive relationship between mean BL density and mean Chl a in the period prior to 0-10 days (at 1% level) and prior to 10-40 days (at 5% level). Beyond 40 days no relationship between BL density and Chl a was found at this depth. At depths 1000-1500m BL density values were low and no significant relationship with Chl a was detected. Generalised additive modelling (GAM) was used to assess the influence of benthic hotspots (seamount; cold water coral mound; mud volcano) on overlying BL density. A reduction in BL density was found downstream of the Palinuro seamount from 300 to 600m. No effect on BL density in the overlying water column was detected from the presence of cold water corals. Higher BL densities were detected over the W Madonna dello Ionio mud volcano than at other sites sampled in the NW Ionian Sea. We find surface Chl a to be a good predictor of BL density in the mesopelagic zone; below this depth we hypothesise that processes affecting the efficiency of particle export to deep water may exert greater influence on BL density. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
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