Our current understanding of meiofaunal respiration rates, and especially of the way they are influenced by changing abiotic factors, is still far from complete. Meiofaunal respiration is traditionally measured using Cartesian divers or related manometric techniques, but these are extremely time-consuming and labour-consuming. We have evaluated the use of Strathkelvin polarographic electrode model 1302 and the O2 monitor model 781 in determining the O2 consumption of meiofaunal animals. Respiration rates obtained in this way of the terrestrial nematode Caenorhabditis elegans compared well with results obtained from Cartesian diver respirometry. Experiments with 3 estuarine nematode species show that 5% accuracy levels are obtained with respiration rates down to 200 nl O2 h-1. This involves the use of a few tens to a few hundred individuals, depending on the size and the respiratory activity of the animals. Several practical problems that relate to the accurate determinations of O2 consumption are discussed. It is concluded that short-term measurements and fairly easy procedures make polarographic O2 electrodes an interesting and reliable tool for routine measurements of meiofaunal community respiration and of the influence of abiotic factors on meiofaunal aerobic metabolism.
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