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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.

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.

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.

Neira, C, Levin LA, Grosholz ED.  2005.  Benthic macrofaunal communities of three sites in San Francisco Bay invaded by hybrid Spartina, with comparison to uninvaded habitats. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. 292:111-126.   10.3354/meps292111   AbstractWebsite

A hybrid cordgrass, formed from a cross between Spartina alterniflora (Atlantic cordgrass) and S. foliosa (Pacific cordgrass), has recently spread within the intertidal zone of south San Francisco Bay. Sediment properties and macroinfaunal community structure were compared in patches invaded by Spartina hybrid and adjacent uninvaded patches at 3 sites in San Francisco Bay (2 tidal flats and 1 Salicornia marsh). We hypothesized that (1) sediments vegetated by Spartina hybrid would have reduced sediment grain size, higher organic matter content, lower redox potential, lower salinity and reduced microalgal biomass relative to adjacent unvegetated tidal flat sediments, and (2) that differences in the sediment environment would correspond to changes in the infaunal invertebrate community structure and feeding modes. We observed 75 % lower total macro-faunal density and lower species richness in Spartina-vegetated sediments at Elsie Roemer (30 yr old invasion) than in an adjacent unvegetated tidal flat. This was due to lower densities of surface-feeding amphipods, bivalves, cirratulid and spionid polychaetes. The proportional representation of subsurface-deposit feeders was greater in Spartina patches than in unvegetated sediments. At a more recently invaded site (Roberts Landing; 15 yr invasion), Spartina patches differed from tidal flat sediments in composition, but not in abundance. Native (Salicornia) and Spartina patches exhibited similar sediment properties at San Mateo, where the Spartina hybrid invaded 8 to 10 yr earlier. No differences were detected in densities or proportions of surface- or subsurface-deposit feeders, but the proportion of carnivores/omnivores and grazers increased in the hybrid-invaded patches. These studies suggest that the invasive Spartina hybrid in south San Francisco Bay can have differing effects on sediment ecosystems, possibly depending on the location, age, or type of habitats involved.

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.

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'.