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Neira, C, King I, Mendoza G, Sellanes J, De Ley P, Levin LA.  2013.  Nematode community structure along a central Chile margin transect influenced by the oxygen minimum zone. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers. 78:1-15.   10.1016/j.dsr.2013.04.002   AbstractWebsite

Nematodes are among the metazoans most tolerant of low-oxygen conditions and play major roles in seafloor ecosystem processes. Nematode communities were studied in sediments off Concepción, Central Chile, spanning the outer shelf within the OMZ (122 m) to the mid-lower continental slope (972 m) beneath the OMZ. The total density and biomass of nematodes (core depth 0–10 cm) ranged from 677 to 2006 ind. 10 cm−2, and 168.4 to 506.5 µg DW 10 cm−2, respectively. Among metazoan meiofaunal taxa, nematodes predominated at all sites both in terms of relative abundance (83.7–99.4%) and biomass (53.8–88.1%), followed by copepods, nauplii and polychaetes. Nematodes were represented by 33 genera distributed among 17 families, with densities greatest at low oxygen sites (122–364 m; ~2000 ind. 10 cm−2). Nematode generic and trophic diversity, and individual biomass were lowest, and Rank 1 dominance was highest, at the most oxygen-depleted site (122 m), despite the fact that the organic carbon content of the sediment was maximal at this depth. At the most oxygenated slope sites (827 and 972 m), all of Wieser's nematode feeding groups were represented. In contrast, at the lowest-oxygen site, only selective deposit (bacterial) feeders (1A) were present, indicating a reduction in trophic complexity. A large percentage of nematodes inhabited subsurface sediment layers (>1 cm). At deeper, more oxygenated sites (827 and 972 m), nematode individual biomass increased downcore, while within the OMZ, nematode biomass was low and remained relatively uniform through the sediment column. The concentration of nematodes in deeper sediment layers, the vertical distribution of the feeding groups, as well as the high nutritional quality of the deeper layers, suggest a differential resource partitioning of the food available, which may reduce interspecific competition.

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.

Sellanes, J, Quiroga E, Neira C, Gutierrez D.  2007.  Changes of macrobenthos composition under different ENSO cycle conditions on the continental shelf off central Chile. Continental Shelf Research. 27:1002-1016.   10.1016/j.csr.2007.01.001   AbstractWebsite

The course of environmental conditions and shelf macrobenthic communities off Central Chile (similar to 36 degrees S) during the strong 1997-98 El Nino (EN) event is compared with a subsequent and basically "normal" period (2002-2003). Changes in macrofaunal community, feeding mode structure, and biomass size spectra are contrasted over time with changes in oceanographic and sediment settings, in order to assess intra- and inter-annual changes in faunal composition during both ENSO periods. During EN, there was a decrease in biomass and abundance of species known to be well adapted to organic-rich, oxygen-deficient environments, such as the interface-feeding polychacte Paraprionospio pinnata. On the other hand the abundance of highly mobile, burrowing polychaetes remained unaffected, or even increased in biomass. The decline of P. pinnata lasted several years after the demise of warm conditions, possibly due to negative interactions with those more mobile burrowing polychaetes. The percent contribution of subsurface-deposit feeders to total biomass increased during EN (49.3 +/- 12.4% during summer) and declined only in the summer-fall period of 2002-03 (11.1 +/- 4.1%). An opposite trend was observed for interface and surface-deposit feeders. From EN to summer-fall 2002-03 (i.e., normal to low oxygen conditions) the size-structure of the macrobenthos switched from a larger to a smaller-sized assemblage. However, biomass was maintained due to successful recruitment and high abundance of both P. pinnata and the squat lobster, Pleuroncodes monodon. Our results suggest that the shelf macrofaunal community structure exhibit fluctuations at various time scales, and that these changes are more pronounced during and after a strong EN event. In such cases, the effects of such an event may be recorded at latitudes as far south as 36 degrees S, with consequences in the biota lasting for many years after the demise of warm conditions. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Sellanes, J, Neira C.  2006.  ENSO as a natural experiment to understand environmental control of meiofaunal community structure. Marine Ecology-an Evolutionary Perspective. 27:31-43.   10.1111/j.1439-0485.2005.00069.x   AbstractWebsite

The sediments of the Bay of Concepcion and the adjacent shelf underlie one of the most productive upwelling areas in the SE Pacific margin. Reports on factors controlling meiofaunal community structure in these kinds of organic-rich and oxygen-deficient habitats are scarce in the literature. In this study, five sites along a transect from the mid-Bay of Concepcion (27 m) to the outer shelf (120 m) were studied on fives dates (May, August, November 1997, and March and May 1998) in order to assess the dynamic relationships between sedimentary organic matter and metazoan meiofauna. The sampling period coincided with the 1997-1998 El Nino event. Sediment parameters investigated were the redox potential discontinuity depth, photosynthetic pigment concentrations (chlorophyll a and phaeopigments), organic carbon, nitrogen, total lipids, carbohydrates, and proteins. In general, lowest values of meiofauna abundance and biomass were found within the naturally eutrophic Bay of Concepcion and towards the shelf break, while maximum values occurred at intermediate depths. During the whole period, the meiofaunal abundance was negatively correlated with the concentration of most of the biochemical components of organic matter, as well as with the sediment phaeopigment content. However, positive correlations were found with chlorophyll a derived indices and with bottom-water oxygen content. Most of the sediment parameters displayed a seasonal cycle, but towards the beginning of 1998, an effect of the 1997-1998 El Nino was evident. Typical austral -summer (i.e. oxygen-deficient) conditions did not develop, and sedimentary parameters reflected a decreased input of phytodetritus. Along the transect, the magnitude of this effect on meiofauna varied among sites. An overall positive response, in terms of meiofaunal abundance was observed, probably due to the amelioration of low oxygen conditions in the sediment.

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.

Neira, C, Sellanes J, Soto A, Gutierrez D, Gallardo VA.  2001.  Meiofauna and sedimentary organic matter off Central Chile: response to changes caused by the 1997-1998 El Nino. Oceanologica Acta. 24:313-328.   10.1016/s0399-1784(01)01149-5   AbstractWebsite

Quantitative surveys of metazoan meiofauna were carried out in an upwelling region off Central Chile (36 degreesS). During May 1997 and May 1998, coinciding with the onset and end of Fl Nino, five benthic stations (respectively 27, 34, 64, 88, and 120 m depth), from the middle of Concepcion Bay to the edge of the adjacent continental shelf, were sampled. The sedimentary organic matter biopolymeric fraction (proteins, carbohydrates and lipids) and chloroplastic pigments were also assessed. Total meiofauna abundance and biomass increased significantly between sampling dates at the mid-bay and inner shelf sites, from 1474 +/- 354 to 5035 +/- 291 individuals 10 cm(-2) and from 2618 +/- 332 to 5241 +/- 903 individuals 10 cm(-2), respectively. The relative importance of copepods in the top 2 cm increased at all sites (except in the bay mouth). During May 1998, meiofauna, especially nematodes, penetrated deeper in the bay, as well as in the inner and middle shelf sediments. Changes observed in meiobenthos structure among sites and periods were attributed to the higher oxygenation of bottom waters during the summer of 1998 (i.e. El Nino conditions). This was most evident at sites such as the mid bay, where during non-EI Nino years, oxygen-deficient conditions prevail. A decrease of organic matter quantity and quality, related to low primary productivity conditions in 1998 (El Nino), apparently caused few changes in meiofauna structure. A positive correlation between Thioploca and the meiofauna biomass was observed in May 1997, whereas in May 1998 no relationship was found. (C) 2001 Ifremer/CNRS/LRD/Editions scientifiques et medicales Elsevier SAS.

Gutierrez, D, Gallardo VA, Mayor S, Neira C, Vasquez C, Sellanes J, Rivas M, Soto A, Carrasco F, Baltazar M.  2000.  Effects of dissolved oxygen and fresh organic matter on the bioturbation potential of macrofauna in sublittoral sediments off Central Chile during the 1997/1998 El Nino. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. 202:81-99.   10.3354/meps202081   AbstractWebsite

A study off Concepcion, central Chile, during the 1997/1998 El Nino (EN) revealed that the concentration of dissolved oxygen and the organic content and quality of the sediment control the vertical distribution of macrofauna in the sediment and bioturbation potential. The study area, characterized by organic-rich, silty sediments, lies within the most intense upwelling center off the coast of Chile, and is subject to the seasonal influx of hypoxic subsurface waters. Five stations (28 to 120 m depth) were sampled seasonally. The vertical distribution and integrated biomass and abundance of macrofauna (> 0.5 mm) were determined, as well as the dissolved oxygen content of the bottom water (BWDO) and sediment parameters such as total organic carbon (TOC), the C/N ratio, sulphide content, chi a content, and the thickness of the oxidized zone. Chi a proved to be a good indicator of fresh (high-quality) organic matter. Major components contributing to variation in the macrofauna feeding guilds, bioturbation categories, and their vertical position in the sediment were: (1) the relative bioturbation potential (contribution of bioturbating taxa to the assemblage) and (2) the vertical distribution and ratio of surface-to subsurface deposit-feeders. Higher levels of BWDO and a lower quality of organic matter at the sediment surface tended to provide better conditions for potentially strong bioturbators, while lower BWDO levels and higher-quality organic matter were accompanied by the dominance of tube-dwelling, surface-defecating land hence weakly bioturbating) species. Higher TOC levels and lower-quality organic matter at the surface resulted in deeper vertical distributions of animals and a higher relative abundance of subsurface deposit-feeders. During the study period, BWDO levels increased, while the total organic carbon and the quality of organic matter decreased. These conditions encouraged the vertical penetration of macrofauna into the sediment column and the relatively larger contribution of stronger bioturbators to the assemblage. The most drastic changes in faunal lifestyles and vertical distribution during the 1997/1998 EN were observed within the Bay of Concepcion, an area usually characterized by sulphidic sediments under the conditions of severe seasonal hypoxia or anoxia obtaining during 'normal' (i.e. non-EN) years; and in the deepest shelf site, which usually experiences permanent hypoxia because of the influence of the 'oxygen minimum zone'.