Mesozooplankton distribution was investigated over an intensive grid of 124 stations in coastal and pelagic waters of central Greece (eastern Mediterranean) during July 1998. The complex topography of the area consisted of various semi-enclosed gulfs as well as open-sea areas and provided excellent fieldwork for determining species assemblages, their relationships to environmental parameters and the distribution and abundance patterns of the copepod species.
Three coastal and one pelagic group of stations were revealed by cluster analysis. Inverse analysis of species affinities defined distinct ‘coastal’ and ‘pelagic’ species assemblages. All coastal areas were dominated by a small number of species (e.g. Penilia avirostris, Podon spp., Ctenocalanus vanus, Paracalanus parvus and Centropages typicus) all belonging to the ‘coastal’ assemblage. Differences among these coastal areas were mainly due to small changes in relative abundance of a common-species list. On the contrary, pelagic stations were characterized by higher species diversity, low dominance and the presence of characteristic epipelagic and mesopelagic species of the Mediterranean Sea (e.g. Calocalanus spp., Haloptilus longicornis, Lucicutia flavicornis, Mecynocera clausi, Farranula rostrata, Mesocalanus tenuicornis and Oncaea mediterranea).
The observed differences in taxonomic composition and abundance of zooplankton were related to the marked differences in salinity values observed between the eastern and western part of the surveyed area. Bathymetry, temperature and fluorescence were also related with the inshore–offshore gradient of the zooplankton community observed in the pelagic areas as well as with the discrimination of the zooplankton communities of the various semi-enclosed gulfs of the region.