The Southern Adriatic Sea is a dynamic region under the influence of diverse physical forces that modify sea water properties as well as plankton dynamics, abundance, and distribution in an intricate way. The most pronounced being: winter vertical convection, lateral exchanges between coastal and open sea waters, and the ingression of water masses of different properties into the Adriatic. We investigated the distribution and abundance of tintinnid species in this dynamic environment in pre- and post-winter conditions in 2015/2016. A strong ingression of the saline Levantine Intermediate Water, supported by the cyclonic mode of the North Ionian Gyre in 2015 and 2016, in December was associated with a high diversity of oceanic species. An unusual spatial distribution of neritic-estuarine species Codonellopsis schabi
was observed in deeper layers along the analyzed transect, which emphasizes the strong influence of physical processes on deep water biology in the South Adriatic. A shift of population toward greater depths (mesopelagic) and modification of deep sea community structure was recorded in April as a consequence of the winter convection-driven sinking of tintinnids. Our findings indicate that tintinnid abundance and composition is heavily influenced by physical conditions and they are good indicators of the impact of physical forces, including climate changes, on marine environment.
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