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Arntz, WE, Gallardo VA, Gutierrez D, Isla E, Levin LA, Mendo J, Neira C, Rowe GT, Tarazona J, Wolff M.  2006.  El Niño 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, [mailto:egu.production@copernicus.org], [URL:http://www.copernicus.org/EGU] 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.

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Contreras, S, Pantoja S, Neira C, Lange CB.  2007.  Biogeochemistry of surface sediments off Concepcion (~36°S), Chile: El Nino vs. non-El Nino conditions. Progress in Oceanography. 75:576-585.   10.1016/j.pocean.2007.08.030   AbstractWebsite

We compared the signals of several water column properties (upwelling intensity, sea level anomaly, temperature, nutrients, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll-a, and surface sediments) of the continental shelf off Concepcion (36 degrees S) during the 1997-1998 El Nino with those of a normal year (2002-2003). We found that the primary hydrographic effect of El Nino 1997-1998 was a reduction in the input of nutrient-rich, oxygen-poor Equatorial Subsurface Water over the shelf. This affected the biology of the water column, as evidenced by the reduced phytoplankton biomass. Surface sediment properties (biogenic opal, organic carbon, bulk delta N-15) observed during El Nino 1997-1998 reflected a reduced export production and the sediments failed to show the water column seasonality that occurs under normal conditions. In addition, weakened denitrification and/or upper water column fertilization could be inferred from the sedimentary delta N-15. Although diminished, export production was preserved in the surface sediments, revealing less degraded organic matter in the upwelling period of the El Nino year than in the normal year. We suggest that the fresher organic material on the seafloor was probably associated with a severe reduction in the polychaete Parapronospio pinnata, which is considered to be the most important metazoan remineralizer of organic carbon at the sediment-water interface in the study area. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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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.

Grosholz, ED, Levin LA, Tyler AC, Neira C.  2009.  Changes in community structure and ecosystem function following Spartina alterniflora invasion of Pacific estuaries. Human impacts on salt marshes : a global perspective. ( Silliman BR, Grosholz E, Bertness MD, Eds.).:23-40., Berkeley: University of California Press Abstract
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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'.

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Levin, LA, Neira C, Grosholz ED.  2006.  Invasive cordgrass modifies wetland trophic function. Ecology. 87:419-432.   10.1890/04-1752   AbstractWebsite

Vascular plants strongly control belowground environments in most ecosystems. Invasion by vascular plants in coastal wetlands, and by cordgrasses (Spartina spp.) in particular, are increasing in incidence globally, with dramatic ecosystem-level consequences. We examined the trophic consequences of' invasion by a Spartina hybrid (S. alterniflora X S. foliosa) in San Francisco Bay (USA) by documenting differences in biomass and trophic structure of benthic communities between sediments invaded by Spartina and uninvaded sediments. We found the invaded system shifted from all algae-bascd to a detritus-based food web. We then tested for a relationship between diet and tolerance to invasion, hypothesizing that species that consume Spartina detritus are more likely to inhabit invaded sediments than those that consume surface algae. Infaunal diets were initially examined with natural abundance stable isotope analyses and application of mixing models, but these yielded an ambiguous picture of food sources. Therefore, we conducted isotopic enrichment experiments by providing N-15-labeled Spartina detritus both on and below the sediment surface in areas that either contained Spartina or were unvegetated. Capitellid and nereid polychaetes, and oligochaetes, groups shown to persist following Spartina invasion of San Francisco Bay tidal flats, took up N-15 from labeled native and invasive Spartina detritus. In contrast, We found that amphipods, bivalves, and other taxa less tolerant to invasion consumed primarily surficial algae, based oil C-13 enrichment experiments. Habitat (Spartina vs. unvegetated patches) and location of' detritus (on or within sediments) did not affect N-15 uptake from cletritus. Our investigations support a "trophic shift" model for ecosystem response to wetland plant invasion and preview loss of key trophic support for fishes and migratory birds by shifting dominance to species not widely consumed by species at higher trophic levels.

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.

Levin, LA, Ekau W, Gooday AJ, Jorissen F, Middelburg JJ, Naqvi SWA, Neira C, Rabalais NN, Zhang J.  2009.  Effects of natural and human-induced hypoxia on coastal benthos. Biogeosciences. 6:2063-2098.   10.5194/bg-6-2063-2009   AbstractWebsite

Coastal hypoxia (defined here as < 1.42 ml L(-1); 62.5 mu M; 2 mg L(-1), approx. 30% oxygen saturation) develops seasonally in many estuaries, fjords, and along open coasts as a result of natural upwelling or from anthropogenic eutrophication induced by riverine nutrient inputs. Permanent hypoxia occurs naturally in some isolated seas and marine basins as well as in open slope oxygen minimum zones. Responses of benthos to hypoxia depend on the duration, predictability, and intensity of oxygen depletion and on whether H(2)S is formed. Under suboxic conditions, large mats of filamentous sulfide oxidizing bacteria cover the seabed and consume sulfide. They are hypothesized to provide a detoxified microhabitat for eukaryotic benthic communities. Calcareous foraminiferans and nematodes are particularly tolerant of low oxygen concentrations and may attain high densities and dominance, often in association with microbial mats. When oxygen is sufficient to support metazoans, small, soft-bodied invertebrates (typically annelids), often with short generation times and elaborate branchial structures, predominate. Large taxa are more sensitive than small taxa to hypoxia. Crustaceans and echinoderms are typically more sensitive to hypoxia, with lower oxygen thresholds, than annelids, sipunculans, molluscs and cnidarians. Mobile fish and shellfish will migrate away from low-oxygen areas. Within a species, early life stages may be more subject to oxygen stress than older life stages. Hypoxia alters both the structure and function of benthic communities, but effects may differ with regional hypoxia history. Human-caused hypoxia is generally linked to eutrophication, and occurs adjacent to watersheds with large populations or agricultural activities. Many occurrences are seasonal, within estuaries, fjords or enclosed seas of the North Atlantic and the NW Pacific Oceans. Benthic faunal responses, elicited at oxygen levels below 2 ml L(-1), typically involve avoidance or mortality of large species and elevated abundances of enrichment opportunists, sometimes prior to population crashes. Areas of low oxygen persist seasonally or continuously beneath upwelling regions, associated with the upper parts of oxygen minimum zones (SE Pacific, W Africa, N Indian Ocean). These have a distribution largely distinct from eutrophic areas and support a resident fauna that is adapted to survive and reproduce at oxygen concentrations < 0.5 ml L(-1). Under both natural and eutrophication-caused hypoxia there is loss of diversity, through attrition of intolerant species and elevated dominance, as well as reductions in body size. These shifts in species composition and diversity yield altered trophic structure, energy flow pathways, and corresponding ecosystem services such as production, organic matter cycling and organic C burial. Increasingly the influences of nature and humans interact to generate or exacerbate hypoxia. A warmer ocean is more stratified, holds less oxygen, and may experience greater advection of oxygen-poor source waters, making new regions subject to hypoxia. Future understanding of benthic responses to hypoxia must be established in the context of global climate change and other human influences such as overfishing, pollution, disease, habitat loss, and species invasions.

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Munoz, P, Salamanca MA, Neira C, Sellanes J.  2004.  Nitrogen sediment fluxes in an upwelling system off central Chile (Concepcion Bay and adjacent shelf) during the 1997-1998 El Nino. Revista Chilena De Historia Natural. 77:305-318.   10.4067S0716-078X2004000200009   AbstractWebsite

Two stations representing coastal and shelf environments (bay of Concepcion and adjacent shelf, respectively) were sampled in order to assess benthic nitrogen fluxes. During the study period anomalously high oxygen bottom waters conditions were observed, coinciding with the 1997-1998 El Nino event. From both sites, intact sediment cores were collected for incubation experiments to directly estimate total ammonium fluxes. Pore-water chemistry was also assessed to estimate diffusive fluxes of nitrogen compounds (NH(4)(+), NO(3)(-) and NO(2)(-)), The NH(4)(+) flux from incubation experiments ranged from 0.55 to 2.18 mmol m(-2) day(-1) in the inner bay and from 1.84 to 2.14 mmol m(-2) day(-1) on the shelf. NO(3)(-) diffusive fluxes to the sediments were observed in the bay in March (-17 x 10(-2) mmol m(-2) day(-1)) and on the shelf in November (-2.7 x 10(-2) mmol m(-2) day(-1)), associated with the lowest NH(4)(+) diffusive fluxes and coincident with a stronger gradient of Eh in the first centimeters of the sediments. Besides, total NH(4)(+) fluxes lower than in normal periods were observed, suggesting the influence of less reducing conditions, consequence in turn of the lower fluxes of particulated organic material and higher dissolved oxygen in the bottom waters. These conditions were probably imposed by the El Nino event. On the other hand, and relative to previous reports, an increase of irrigation coefficients (DI) was estimated. Thus, the flux extension of other nitrogen compounds could have acquired relevance in relation to NH(4)(+) fluxes during the study period.

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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.

Neira, C.  1992.  Benthic fecal pellets. Cycling of sediment and organic carbon by Heteromastus filiformis. Ph.D., Oldenburg, Germany: Universität Oldenburg Abstract
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Neira, C, Delgadillo-Hinojosa F, Zirino A, Mendoza G, Levin LA, Porrachia M, Deheyn DD.  2009.  Spatial distribution of copper in relation to recreational boating in a California shallow-water basin. Chemistry and Ecology. 25:417-433.   10.1080/02757540903334197   AbstractWebsite

The overall effect of the number of boats on the copper (Cu) levels in the water column and sediment, along with their spatial variability within Shelter Island Yacht Basin (SIYB), San Diego Bay, California was examined. We identified a horizontal gradient of increasing dissolved Cu and Cu in sediment from outside to the head of SIYB which was coincident with the increasing number of boats. Spatial models of Cu distribution in water and sediment indicated the presence of 'hotspots' of Cu concentration. From outside to the head of SIYB, dissolved Cu ranged from 1.3 gL-1 to 14.6 gL-1 in surface water, and 2.0 gL-1 to 10.2 gL-1 in bottom water. Cu in sediment exceeded the Effect Range Low of 34mgkg-1 (i.e. where adverse effects to fauna may occur), with a peak concentration of 442mgkg-1 at the head of the basin. Free Cu++ in surface water was several orders of magnitude higher than in sediment porewater. High-resolution data of Cu species together with probability maps presented in this paper will allow managers to easily visualise and localise areas of impaired quality and to prioritise which areas should be targeted to improve Cu-related conditions.

Neira, C, Decraemer W, Backeljau T.  2005.  A new species of Glochinema (Epsilonematidae : Nematoda) from the oxygen minimum zone off Baja California, NE Pacific and phylogenetic relationships at species level within the family. Cahiers De Biologie Marine. 46:105-126. AbstractWebsite

Glochinema spinithorni sp. nov. is described from muddy, bathyal sediments of the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) of the north eastern Pacific Ocean off Baja California. It is characterized by a rather large body length (over I mm), a large number of body rings (242-282), sexual dimorphism in the number and position of pharyngeal thorns near the head region, cuticular ornamentation with numerous hairy spines and two sets of stronger spines ventrally in the anterior body half, mid-sized spiral amphids, and by the number and arrangement of ambulatory setae and long spicules (over 100 mu m). The finding of a second OMZ Glochinema species with similar morphological characteristics supports the presumption that OMZs function as isolated habitats promoting endemism at low taxonomic levels. Results of phylogenetic analyses at the species level restricted to the Glochinematinae and Keratonematinae suggest that both OMZ species form a monophyletic group. An attempt was made to recognize phylogenetic relationships at species level within the family. The phylogenetic analyses were based upon a data matrix of 96 ingroup taxa and 25 characters. The results support the monophyly of the genera Leptepsilonema, Metepsilonema, Perepsilonema and Polkepsilonema (with or without Pternepsilonema).

Neira, C, Ingels J, Mendoza G, Hernandez-Lopez E, Levin LA.  2018.  Distribution of meiofauna in bathyal sediments influenced by the oxygen minimum zone off Costa Rica. Frontiers in Marine Science. 5   10.3389/fmars.2018.00448   AbstractWebsite

Ocean deoxygenation has become a topic of increasing concern because of its potential impacts on marine ecosystems, including oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) expansion and subsequent benthic effects. We investigated the influence of oxygen concentration and organic matter (OM) availability on metazoan meiofauna within and below an OMZ in bathyal sediments off Costa Rica, testing the hypothesis that oxygen and OM levels are reflected in meiofaunal community structures and distribution. Mean total densities in our sampling cores (400-1800 m water depth) were highest with 3688 ind. 10 cm(-2) at the OMZ core at 400 m water depth, decreasing rapidly downslope. Nematodes were overall dominant, with a maximum of 99.9% in the OMZ core, followed by copepods (13%), nauplii (4.8%), and polychaetes (3%). Relative copepod and nauplii abundance increased consistently with depth and increasing bottom-water O-2. Meiofaunal composition was significantly different among sites, with lower taxonomic diversity at OMZ sites relative to deeper, oxygenated sites. Vertical distribution patterns within sediments showed that in strongly oxygen-depleted sites less meiofauna was concentrated in the surface sediment than at deeper slope sites. Highest meiofaunal abundance and lowest diversity occurred under lowest oxygen and highest pigment levels, whereas highest diversity occurred under highest oxygen-concentrations and low pigments, as well as high quality of sedimentary pigment (chl a/phaeo) and organic carbon (C/N). The lower meiofaunal diversity, and lower structural and trophic complexity, at oxygen-depleted sites raises concerns about changes in the structure and function of benthic marine ecosystems in the face of OMZ expansions.

Neira, C, Rackemann M.  1996.  Black spots produced by buried macroalgae in intertidal sandy sediments of the Wadden Sea: Effects on the meiobenthos. Journal of Sea Research. 36:153-170.   10.1016/s1385-1101(96)90786-8   AbstractWebsite

The effects of buried decaying macroalgae on meiobenthos were examined in intertidal sandy sediments of the Wadden Sea of Lower Saxony. In situ experiments confirmed that one of the principal causes of the formation of reduced surface sediments or 'black spots' on the tidal flats is the increasing occurrence and subsequent decomposition of filamentous green algae (Enteromorpha spp.) buried in the sediment. Five to fifteen days after algal material had been buried, the sediment surface turned black. The impact of these black spots on meiobenthos was dramatic: the changed chemical conditions in the sediment resulted in long and drastic reductions in meiofaunal abundance and number of taxa. A multi-dimensional scaling (MDS) analysis of data on meiobenthic abundances revealed that samples from black-spot areas were clearly separated from those of control and reference areas. Re-oxidized black spots showed recolonization by meiofaunal animals, with numbers of individuals and taxa similar to those of oxidized surface sediments. The use of abundances of members of higher meiobenthic taxa to monitor changes in the sediment's chemistry, especially those caused by biomass overload, is discussed.

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.

Neira, C, Silva M, Iorizi M, Minale L.  1992.  Marine organic chemistry .5. Asterosaponins from the starfish Heliaster helianthus. Boletin De La Sociedad Chilena De Quimica. 37:139-142. AbstractWebsite

A chemical study of the starfisf Heliaster helianthus is reported. The polar extract yielded four glucosides, a new xylosides 1, thornasterosides A 2, the xyloside 3 with a known aglycone and glacialoside A 4.

Neira, C, Grosholz ED, Levin LA, Blake R.  2006.  Mechanisms generating modification of benthos following tidal flat invasion by a Spartina hybrid. Ecological Applications. 16:1391-1404.   10.1890/1051-0761(2006)016[1391:mgmobf]2.0.co;2   AbstractWebsite

Many coastal habitats are being substantially altered by introduced plants. In San Francisco Bay,, California, USA, a hybrid form of the eastern cordgrass Spartina alterniflora is rapidly invading open mudflats in southern and central sections of the Bay, altering habitat, reducing macrofaunal densities, and shifting species composition. The invasion has resulted in significant losses of surface-feeding amphipods, bivalves, and cirratulid polychaetes, while subsurface feeding groups such as tubificid oligochaetes and capitellid polychaetes have been unaffected. In the present paper, we document the causes and mechanisms underlying the changes observed. Through a series of in situ manipulative experiments we examined the influence of hybrid Spartina canopy on a range of physical, chemical, and biological properties. The hybrid Spartina canopy exerted a strong influence on. the hydrodynamic regime, triggering a series of physical, chemical, and biological changes in the benthic system. Relative to tidal flats, water velocity was reduced in hybrid patches, promoting deposition of fine-grained, organic-rich particles. The resulting changes in the sediment environment included increased porewater sulfide concentrations and anoxia, which led to poor survivorship. of surface feeders such as, bivalves, amphipods, and polychaetes. These are key taxa that support higher trophic levels including migratory shorebirds that feed on tidal flats. Altered flow in the Spartina canopy further contributed to changes in barnacle recruitment and resuspension of adult benthic invertebrates. Increased crab-induced predation pressure associated with Spartina invasion also contributed to changes in benthic invertebrate communities. Our results suggest that multiple physical, chemical, biotic, and trophic impacts of the Spartina invasion have resulted in substantial changes in benthic communities that are likely to have important effects on the entire ecosystem.

Neira, C, Gad G, Arroyo NL, Decraemer W.  2001.  Glochinema bathyperuvensis sp. n. (Nematoda, Epsilonematidae): A new species from Peruvian bathyal sediments, SE Pacific Ocean. Contributions to Zoology. 70:147-159. AbstractWebsite

Glochinema bathyperuvensis sp. n., the first record of Epsilonematidae from bathyal muddy sediments of the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) off Callao, Peru (eastern Pacific Ocean) is described. The new species belongs to the subfamily Glochinematinae and is characterized by the possession of more than 8 pairs of subdorsal thorns asymmetrically arranged and a single dorsal one in the pharyngeal region, as well as by the presence of ten to thirteen blade-like cuticular protrusions forming a latero-dorsal palisade around the posterior head region and anterior cervical region, In addition, G. bathyperuvensis is characterized by its large size, more than 240 cuticular annules, provided with an extremely dense,hairy'' body ornamentation and, four rows of ambulatory setae: two inner subventral ones with 8 to 9 setae in males, and 5 to 6 setac in females, and two outer subventral rows composed each of 9-12 ambulatory setae followed by a large number of modified somatic setae. The dense hairy body spines, the large number of modified somatic setae, its dominant occurrence exclusive in oxygen-depleted, organic-rich soupy surface sediments indicate an adaptation to the stressed OMZ habitat conditions.

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, 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.

Neira, C, Höpner T, Rackemann M.  1998.  Annual course of sediment parameters and meiofauna on a sandy tidal flat in the Wadden Sea after the severe winter of 1995/96. Deutsche Hydrografische Zeitschrift. 50:301-311.: Springer-Verlag   10.1007/BF02764227   AbstractWebsite

Local abiotic and biotic data are presented from the Gröninger Plate (a sandy tidal flat south of Spiekeroog Island) covering a period of one year (February 1996 — February 1997), which includes the coldest part of the ice winter of 1995/96 as well as the winter of 1996/97. The thickness of the visible oxidized layer revealed a clear seasonality. Regarding sandy sediments, values were generally low and ranged between 2.9 cm in winter and 0.9 cm in summer. Biotic and abiotic data are restricted to composition and abundance of meiofauna taxa, total organic carbon, Chl a and phaeopigments as well as temperature and salinity. A significant reduction of meiofaunal abundance, particularly of nematodes, in the top 2 cm was recorded in samples taken in sediments covered by ice, as compared to sediments without an ice cover. However, vertical distribution of meiofauna under ice cover showed that nematodes had migrated to deeper sediment layers. The meiofauna appeared to have overcome the stress of low temperatures and ice formation better than the macrofauna.

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.

Neira, C, Cossaboon J, Mendoza G, Hoh E, Levin LA.  2017.  Occurrence and distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in surface sediments of San Diego Bay marinas. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 114:466-479.   10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.10.009   Abstract

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have garnered much attention due to their bioaccumulation, carcinogenic properties, and persistence in the environment. Investigation of the spatial distribution, composition, and sources of PAHs in sediments of three recreational marinas in San Diego Bay, California revealed significant differences among marinas, with concentrations in one site exceeding 16,000 ng g− 1. ‘Hotspots’ of PAH concentration suggest an association with stormwater outfalls draining into the basins. High-molecular weight PAHs (4–6 rings) were dominant (> 86%); the average percentage of potentially carcinogenic PAHs was high in all sites (61.4–70%) but ecotoxicological risks varied among marinas. Highly toxic benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) was the main contributor (> 90%) to the total toxic equivalent quantity (TEQ) in marinas. PAHs in San Diego Bay marina sediments appear to be derived largely from pyrogenic sources, potentially from combustion products that reach the basins by aerial deposition and stormwater drainage from nearby streets and parking lots.