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Neira, C, Levin LA, Mendoza G, Zirino A.  2014.  Alteration of benthic communities associated with copper contamination linked to boat moorings. Marine Ecology-an Evolutionary Perspective. 35:46-66.   10.1111/maec.12054   AbstractWebsite

Although copper (Cu) is an essential element for life, leaching from boat paint can cause excess environmental loading in enclosed marinas. The effects of copper contamination on benthic macrofaunal communities were examined in three San Diego Bay marinas (America's Cup, Harbor Island West and East) in Southern California, USA. The distribution of Cu concentration in sediments exhibited a clear spatial gradient, with hotspots created by the presence of boats, which in two marinas exceeded the effect range medium (ERM). Elevated sediment Cu was associated with differences in benthic assemblages, reduced species richness and enhanced dominance in America's Cup and Harbor Island West, whereas Harbor Island East did not appear to be affected. At sites without boats there were greater abundances of some amphipods such as the species Desdimelita sp., Harpinia sp., Aoroides sp., Corophium sp., Podocerus sp., bivalves such as Lyonsia californica, Musculista senhousia, Macoma sp., and polychaetes such as Diplocirrus sp. In contrast, at sites with boats, densities of Pseudopolydora paucibranchiata, Polydora nuchalis, Euchone limnicola, Exogone lourei, Tubificoides spp. were enhanced. The limited impact on Harbor Island East suggests not only lower Cu input rates and increased water flushing and mixing, but also the presence of adequate defense mechanisms that regulate availability and mitigate toxic impacts. At all three marinas, Cu in tissues of several macrobenthic species exhibited Cu bioaccumulation above levels found in the surrounding environment. The annelids Lumbrineris sp. and Tubificoides spp., and the amphipod Desdimelita sp. contained high levels of Cu, suggesting they function as Cu bioaccumulators. The spionid polychaetes Polydora nuchalis and Pseudopolydora paucibranchiata had much lower Cu concentrations than surrounding sediments, suggesting they function as Cu bioregulators. The macrobenthic invertebrates in San Diego Bay marinas that tolerate Cu pollution (e.g. P.nuchalis, P.paucibranchiata, Euchone limnicola, Typosyllis sp., Tubificoides sp.) may function as indicators of high-Cu conditions, whereas the presence of Cu-sensitive species (e.g. Podocerus sp., Aoroides sp., Harpinia sp., Macoma sp., Lyonsia californica) may indicate healthier conditions (less Cu-stressed). Parallel responses by faunas of Shelter Island Yacht Basin, also in San Diego Bay, suggest potential for development of regional Cu contamination assessment criteria, and call for functional comparisons with other marinas and coastal water bodies.

Neira, C, Mendoza G, Levin LA, Zirino A, Delgadillo-Hinojosa F, Porrachia M, Deheyn DD.  2011.  Macrobenthic community response to copper in Shelter Island Yacht Basin, San Diego Bay, California. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 62:701-717.   10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.01.027   AbstractWebsite

We examined Cu contamination effects on macrobenthic communities and Cu concentration in invertebrates within Shelter Island Yacht Basin, San Diego Bay, California. Results indicate that at some sites, Cu in sediment has exceeded a threshold for "self defense" mechanisms and highlight the potential negative impacts on benthic faunal communities where Cu accumulates and persists in sediments. At sites with elevated Cu levels in sediment, macrobenthic communities were not only less diverse but also their total biomass and body size (individual biomass) were reduced compared to sites with lower Cu. Cu concentration in tissue varied between species and within the same species, reflecting differing abilities to "regulate" their body load. The spatial complexity of Cu effects in a small marina such as SIYB emphasizes that sediment-quality criteria based solely on laboratory experiments should be used with caution, as they do not necessarily reflect the condition at the community and ecosystem levels. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Gooday, AJ, Bett BJ, Escobar E, Ingole B, Levin LA, Neira C, Raman AV, Sellanes J.  2010.  Habitat heterogeneity and its influence on benthic biodiversity in oxygen minimum zones. Marine Ecology-an Evolutionary Perspective. 31:125-147.   10.1111/j.1439-0485.2009.00348.x   AbstractWebsite

Oxygen minimum zones (OMZs; midwater regions with O(2) concentrations <0.5 ml l(-1)) are mid-water features that intercept continental margins at bathyal depths (100-1000 m). They are particularly well developed in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Based on analyses of data from these regions, we consider (i) how benthic habitat heterogeneity is manifested within OMZs, (ii) which aspects of this heterogeneity exert the greatest influence on alpha and beta diversity within particular OMZs and (iii) how heterogeneity associated with OMZs influences regional (gamma) diversity on continental margins. Sources of sea-floor habitat heterogeneity within OMZs include bottom-water oxygen and sulphide gradients, substratum characteristics, bacterial mats, and variations in the organic matter content of the sediment and pH. On some margins, hard grounds, formed of phosphorites, carbonates or biotic substrata, represent distinct subhabitats colonized by encrusting faunas. Most of the heterogeneity associated with OMZs, however, is created by strong sea-floor oxygen gradients, reinforced by changes in sediment characteristics and organic matter content. For the Pakistan margin, combining these parameters revealed clear environmental and faunal differences between the OMZ core and the upper and lower boundary regions. In all Pacific and Arabian Sea OMZs examined, oxygen appears to be the master driver of alpha and beta diversity in all benthic faunal groups for which data exist, as well as macrofaunal assemblage composition, particularly in the OMZ core. However, other factors, notably organic matter quantity and quality and sediment characteristics, come into play as oxygen concentrations begin to rise. The influence of OMZs on meiofaunal, macrofaunal and megafaunal regional (gamma) diversity is difficult to assess. Hypoxia is associated with a reduction in species richness in all benthic faunal groups, but there is also evidence for endemism in OMZ settings. We conclude that, on balance, OMZs probably enhance regional diversity, particularly in taxa such as Foraminifera, which are more tolerant of hypoxia than others. Over evolutionary timescales, they may promote speciation by creating strong gradients in selective pressures and barriers to gene flow.

Neira, C, Levin LA, Grosholz ED, Mendoza G.  2007.  Influence of invasive Spartina growth stages on associated macrofaunal communities. Biological Invasions. 9:975-993.   10.1007/s10530-007-9097-x   AbstractWebsite

In coastal wetlands, invasive plants often act as ecosystem engineers altering flow, light and sediments which, in turn, can affect benthic animal communities. However, the degree of influence of the engineer will vary significantly as it grows, matures and senesces, and surprisingly little is known about how the influence of an ecosystem engineer varies with ontogeny. We address this issue on the tidal flats of San Francisco Bay where hybrid Spartina (foliosa x alterniflora) invaded 30 years ago. The invasion has altered the physico-chemical properties of the sediment habitat, which we predicted should cause changes in macrofaunal community structure and function. Through mensurative and manipulative approaches we investigated the influence of different growth stages of hybrid Spartina on macrobenthos and the underlying mechanisms. Cross-elevation sampling transects were established covering 5 zones (or stages) of the invasion, running from the tidal flat (pre-invasion) to an unvegetated dieback zone. Additionally, we experimentally removed aboveground plant structure in the mature (inner) marsh to mimic the 'unvegetated areas'. Our results revealed four distinct faunal assemblages, which reflected Spartina-induced changes in the corresponding habitat properties along an elevation gradient: a pre-invaded tidal flat, a leading edge of immature invasion, a center of mature invasion, and a senescing dieback area. These stages of hybrid Spartina invasion were accompanied by a substantial reduction in macrofaunal species richness and an increase in dominance, as well as a strong shift in feeding modes, from surface microalgal feeders to subsurface detritus/Spartina feeders (mainly tubificid oligochaetes and capitellid polychaetes). Knowledge of the varying influence of plant invaders on the sediment ecosystem during different phases of invasion is critical for management of coastal wetlands.

Arntz, WE, Gallardo VA, Gutierrez D, Isla E, Levin LA, Mendo J, Neira C, Rowe GT, Tarazona J, Wolff M.  2006.  El NiƱo and similar perturbation effects on the benthos of the Humboldt, California, and Benguela Current upwelling ecosystems. Advances in Geosciences. 6:243-265.: European Geosciences Union, c/o E.O.S.T. 5, rue Rene Descartes Strasbourg Cedex 67084 France, [], [URL:] AbstractWebsite

To a certain degree, Eastern Boundary Current (EBC) ecosystems are similar: Cold bottom water from moderate depths, rich in nutrients, is transported to the euphotic zone by a combination of trade winds, Coriolis force and Ekman transport. The resultant high primary production fuels a rich secondary production in the upper pelagic and nearshore zones, but where O sub(2) exchange is restricted, it creates oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) at shelf and upper slope (Humboldt and Benguela Current) or slope depths (California Current). These hypoxic zones host a specifically adapted, small macro- and meiofauna together with giant sulphur bacteria that use nitrate to oxydise H sub(2)S. In all EBC, small polychaetes, large nematodes and other opportunistic benthic species have adapted to the hypoxic conditions and co-exist with sulphur bacteria, which seem to be particularly dominant off Peru and Chile. However, a massive reduction of macrobenthos occurs in the core of the OMZ. In the Humboldt Current area the OMZ ranges between <100 and about 600 m, with decreasing thickness in a poleward direction. The OMZ merges into better oxygenated zones towards the deep sea, where large cold-water mega- and macrofauna occupy a dominant role as in the nearshore strip. The Benguela Current OMZ has a similar upper limit but remains shallower. It also hosts giant sulphur bacteria but little is known about the benthic fauna. However, sulphur eruptions and intense hypoxia might preclude the coexistence of significant mega- und macrobenthos. Conversely, off North America the upper limit of the OMZ is considerably deeper (e.g., 500-600 m off California and Oregon), and the lower boundary may exceed 1000m. The properties described are valid for very cold and cold (La Nina and "normal") ENSO conditions with effective upwelling of nutrient-rich bottom water. During warm (El Nino) episodes, warm water masses of low oxygen concentration from oceanic and equatorial regions enter the upwelling zones, bringing a variety of (sub)tropical immigrants. The autochthonous benthic fauna emigrates to deeper water or poleward, or suffers mortality. However, some local macrofaunal species experience important population proliferations, presumably due to improved oxygenation (in the southern hemisphere), higher temperature tolerance, reduced competition or the capability to use different food. Both these negative and positive effects of el Nino influence local artisanal fisheries and the livelihood of coastal populations. In the Humboldt Current system the hypoxic seafloor at outer shelf depths receives important flushing from the equatorial zone, causing havoc on the sulphur bacteria mats and immediate recolonisation of the sediments by mega- and macrofauna. Conversely, off California, the intruding equatorial water masses appear to have lower oxygen than ambient waters, and may cause oxygen deficiency at upper slope depths. Effects of this change have not been studied in detail, although shrimp and other taxa appear to alter their distribution on the continental margin. Other properties and reactions of the two Pacific EBC benthic ecosystems to el Nino seem to differ, too, as does the overall impact of major episodes (e.g., 1982/1983(1984) vs. 1997/1998). The relation of the "Benguela Nino" to ENSO seems unclear although many Pacific- Atlantic ocean and atmosphere teleconnections have been described. Warm, low- oxygen equatorial water seems to be transported into the upwelling area by similar mechanisms as in the Pacific, but most major impacts on the eukaryotic biota obviously come from other, independent perturbations such as an extreme eutrophication of the sediments ensuing in sulphidic eruptions and toxic algal blooms. Similarities and differences of the Humboldt and California Current benthic ecosystems are discussed with particular reference to ENSO impacts since 1972/73. Where there are data available, the authors include the Benguela Current ecosystem as another important, non-Pacific EBC, which also suffers from the effects of hypoxia.

Sellanes, J, Neira C, Quiroga E.  2003.  Composition, structure and energy flux of the meiobenthos off central Chile. Revista Chilena De Historia Natural. 76:401-415.   10.4067S0716-078X2003000300006.   AbstractWebsite

The general objective of this study was to determine the structure of metazoan meiofauna (at a high taxonomic level) and to estimate its role in the energy flux of the benthic sub-system off Concepcion, Chile (similar to36degrees30' S). Samples were collected in May and November 1997 and May 1998 at five sites located at the: inner Bay of Concepcion (28 m), bay-mouth (35 m), inner-shelf (64 m), mid-shelf (88 in) and outer-shelf (120 m). The study period coincided with the El Nino 1997-1998 (EN) event. The diversity of the meiobenthos was low, but density and biomass were moderate to high compared with average values reported for muddy sub-littoral environments elsewhere. Nematodes were the dominant group, with over 95 % (10(3)-10(4) ind 10 cm(-2)) of the total density, followed by copepods and polychaetes. Highest densities and biomasses were always found at the bay-mouth, followed by the inner-bay and the inner-shelf, while the lowest values occurred at the mid- and outer-shelf. Off Concepcion, the meiofauna plays an important role in the energy flux through the benthic sub-system. Indeed, the meiofauna could be converting to biomass and remineralizing in the inner-bay and bay-mouth up to 36 and 45 %, respectively, of the organic carbon reaching the sediments from the water column.

Levin, L, Gutierrez D, Rathburn A, Neira C, Sellanes J, Munoz P, Gallardo V, Salamanca M.  2002.  Benthic processes on the Peru margin: a transect across the oxygen minimum zone during the 1997-98 El Nino. Progress in Oceanography. 53:1-27.   10.1016/s0079-6611(02)00022-8   AbstractWebsite

Oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) are widespread features in the most productive regions of the world ocean. A holistic view of benthic responses to OMZ conditions will improve our ability to predict ecosystem-level consequences of climatic trends that influence oxygen availability, such as global warming or ENSO-related events. Four stations off Callao, Peru (-12'S, Station A, 305 m; Station B, 562 m; Station C, 830 nu and Station D, 1210 m) were sampled to examine the influence of the low bottom-water oxygen concentration and high organic-matter availability within the OMZ (O(2) < 0.5 ml L(-1)) on sediments, benthic communities, and bioturbation. Sampling took place during early January 1998, an intense El Ni (n) over tildeo period associated with higher-than-normal levels of O(2) on the shelf and upper slope. Peru slope sediments were highly heterogeneous. Sediment total organic carbon content exceeded 16%, lamination was present below 6 cm depth, and filamentous sulfur bacteria (Thioploca spp.) were present at Station A, (305 m, 0, < 0.02 ml L(-1)). Deeper sites contained phosphorite crusts or pellets and exhibited greater bottom-water oxygenation and lower content and quality of organic matter. X-radiographs and (210)Pb and (234)Th profiles suggested the dominance of lateral transport and bioturbation over pelagic sedimentation at the mid- and lower slope sites. Macrofauna, metazoan meiofauna and foraminifera exhibited coherence of density patterns across stations, with maximal densities (and for macrofauna, reduced diversity) at Station A, where bottom-water oxygen concentration was lowest and sediment labile organic matter content (LOC: sum of protein, carbohydrate and lipid carbon) was greatest. Metazoan and protozoan meiofaunal densities were positively correlated with sediment LOC. The taxa most tolerant of nearly anoxic, organic-rich conditions within the Peru OMZ were calcareous foraminifera, nematodes and gutless phallodrilinid (symbiont-bearing) oligochaetes. Agglutinated foraminifera, harpacticoid copepods, polychaetes and many other macrofaunal taxa increased in relative abundance below the OMZ. During the study (midpoint of the 1997-98 El Ni (n) over tildeo), the upper OMZ boundary exhibited a significant deepening (to 190 m) relative to 'normal', non-El Ni (n) over tildeo conditions (< 100 m), possibly causing a mild, transient oxygenation over the upper slope (200-300 m) and reduction of the organic particle flux to the seabed. Future sampling may determine whether the Peru margin system exhibits dynamic responses to changing ENSO-related conditions. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.