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2014
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.

2010
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.

2009
Rathburn, AE, Levin LA, Tryon M, Gieskes JM, Martin JM, Perez ME, Fodrie FJ, Neira C, Fryer GJ, Mendoza G, McMillan PA, Kluesner J, Adamic J, Ziebis W.  2009.  Geological and biological heterogeneity of the Aleutian margin (1965-4822 m). Progress in Oceanography. 80:22-50.   10.1016/j.pocean.2008.12.002   AbstractWebsite

Geological, biological and biogeochemical characterization of the previously unexplored margin off Unimak Island, Alaska between 1965 and 4822 m water depth was conducted to examine: (1) the geological processes that shaped the margin, (2) the linkages between depth, geomorphology and environmental disturbance in structuring benthic communities of varying size classes and (3) the existence, composition and nutritional sources of methane seep biota on this margin. The study area was mapped and sampled using multibeam sonar, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and a towed camera system. Our results provide the first characterization of the Aleutian margin mid and lower slope benthic communities (micro-biota, foraminifera, macrofauna and megafauna), recognizing diverse habitats in a variety of settings. Our investigations also revealed that the geologic feature known as the "Ugamak Slide" is not a slide at all, and could not have resulted from a large 1946 earthquake. However, sediment disturbance appears to be a pervasive feature of this margin. We speculate that the deep-sea occurrence of high densities of Elphidium, typically a shallow-water foraminiferan, results from the influence of sediment redeposition from shallower habitats. Strong representation of cumacean, amphipod and tanaid crustaceans among the Unimak macrofauna may also reflect sediment instability. Although some faunal abundances decline with depth, habitat heterogeneity and disturbance generated by canyons and methane seepage appear to influence abundances of biota in ways that supercede any clear depth gradient in organic matter input. Measures of sediment organic matter and pigment content as well as C and N isotopic signatures were highly heterogeneous, although the availability of organic matter and the abundance of microorganisms in the upper sediment (1-5 cm) were positively correlated. We report the first methane seep on the Aleutian slope in the Unimak region (3263-3285 m), comprised of clam bed, pogonophoran field and carbonate habitats. Seep foraminiferal assemblages were dominated by agglutinated taxa, except for habitats above the seafloor on pogonophoran tubes. Numerous infaunal taxa in clam bed and pogonophoran field sediments and deep-sea "reef' cnidarians (e.g., corals and hydroids) residing on rocks near seepage sites exhibited light organic delta(13)C signatures indicative of chemosynthetic nutritional sources. The extensive geological, biogeochemical and biological heterogeneity as well as disturbance features observed on the Aleutian slope provide an attractive explanation for the exceptionally high biodiversity characteristic of the world's continental margins. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.