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Carson, HS, Lopez-Duarte PC, Rasmussen L, Wang DX, Levin LA.  2010.  Reproductive timing alters population connectivity in marine metapopulations. Current Biology. 20:1926-1931.   10.1016/j.cub.2010.09.057   AbstractWebsite

Populations of most marine organisms are connected by the dispersal of larval stages, with profound implications for marine conservation [1]. Because of the extreme effort needed to empirically measure larval exchange, multispecies conservation efforts must estimate connectivity by extrapolation using taxonomy, adult distribution, life history, behavior, or phenology. Using a 6-year record of connectivity realized through trace-elemental fingerprinting of larval shells, we document the seasonal and interannual variability of larval exchange for two congeneric mussel species with overlapping but distinct distribution, life history, and reproduction timing. We reveal consistent autumn poleward movement and spring equatorward movement for both species, coincident with near-shore surface currents. However, because the major reproductive seasons differ, the dominant source-sink dynamics of these two congeneric species are nearly opposite. Consideration of present and future reproductive timing as altered by climate change is crucial to marine connectivity and conservation, especially for the numerous coastal areas subject to seasonal current reversals.

Carson, HS, Cook GS, Lopez-Duarte PC, Levin LA.  2011.  Evaluating the importance of demographic connectivity in a marine metapopulation. Ecology. 92:1972-1984. AbstractWebsite

Recently researchers have gone to great lengths to measure marine metapopulation connectivity via tagging, genetic, and trace-elemental fingerprinting studies. These empirical estimates of larval dispersal are key to assessing the significance of metapopulation connectivity within a demographic context, but the life-history data required to do this are rarely available. To evaluate the demographic consequences of connectivity we constructed seasonal, size-structured metapopulation matrix models for two species of mytilid mussel in San Diego County, California, USA. The self-recruitment and larval exchange terms were produced from a time series of realized connectivities derived from trace-elemental fingerprinting of larval shells during spring and fall from 2003 to 2008. Both species exhibited a strong seasonal pattern of southward movement of recruits in spring and northward movement in fall. Growth and mortality terms were estimated using mark recapture data from representative sites for each species and subpopulation, and literature estimates of juvenile mortality. Fecundity terms were estimated using county-wide settlement data from 2006-2008; these data reveal peak reproduction and recruitment in fall for Mytilus californianus, and spring for M. galloprovincialis. Elasticity and life-stage simulation analyses were employed to identify the season- and subpopulation-specific vital rates and connectivity terms to which the metapopulation growth rate (lambda) was most sensitive. For both species, metapopulation growth was most sensitive to proportional changes in adult fecundity, survival and growth of juvenile stages, and population connectivity, in order of importance, but relatively insensitive to adult growth or survival. The metapopulation concept was deemed appropriate for both Mytilus species as exchange between the subpopulations was necessary for subpopulation persistence. However, highest metapopulation growth occurred in years when a greater proportion of recruits was retained within the predominant source subpopulation. Despite differences in habitat and planktonic duration, both species exhibited similar overall metapopulation dynamics with respect to key life stages and processes. However, different peak reproductive periods in an environment of seasonal current reversals led to different regional (subpopulation) contributions to metapopulation maintenance; this result emphasizes the importance of connectivity analysis for spatial, management of coastal resources.

Case, DH, Pasulka AL, Marlow JJ, Grupe BM, Levin LA, Orphan VJ.  2015.  Methane seep carbonates host distinct, diverse, and dynamic microbial assemblages. Mbio. 6   10.1128/mBio.01348-15   AbstractWebsite

Marine methane seeps are globally distributed geologic features in which reduced fluids, including methane, are advected upward from the subsurface. As a result of alkalinity generation during sulfate-coupled methane oxidation, authigenic carbonates form slabs, nodules, and extensive pavements. These carbonates shape the landscape within methane seeps, persist long after methane flux is diminished, and in some cases are incorporated into the geologic record. In this study, microbial assemblages from 134 native and experimental samples across 5,500 km, representing a range of habitat substrates (carbonate nodules and slabs, sediment, bottom water, and wood) and seepage conditions (active and low activity), were analyzed to address two fundamental questions of seep microbial ecology: (i) whether carbonates host distinct microbial assemblages and (ii) how sensitive microbial assemblages are to habitat substrate type and temporal shifts in methane seepage flux. Through massively parallel 16S rRNA gene sequencing and statistical analysis, native carbonates are shown to be reservoirs of distinct and highly diverse seep microbial assemblages. Unique coupled transplantation and colonization experiments on the seafloor demonstrated that carbonate-associated microbial assemblages are resilient to seep quiescence and reactive to seep activation over 13 months. Various rates of response to simulated seep quiescence and activation are observed among similar phylogenies (e.g., Chloroflexi operational taxonomic units) and similar metabolisms (e.g., putative S oxidizers), demonstrating the wide range of microbial sensitivity to changes in seepage flux. These results imply that carbonates do not passively record a time-integrated history of seep microorganisms but rather host distinct, diverse, and dynamic microbial assemblages. IMPORTANCE Since their discovery in 1984, the global distribution and importance of marine methane seeps have become increasingly clear. Much of our understanding of methane seep microorganisms-from metabolisms to community ecology-has stemmed from detailed studies of seep sediments. However, it has become apparent that carbonates represent a volumetrically significant habitat substrate at methane seeps. Through combined in situ characterization and incubation experiments, this study demonstrates that carbonates host microbial assemblages distinct from and more diverse than those of other seep habitats. This emphasizes the importance of seep carbonates as biodiversity locales. Furthermore, we demonstrate that carbonate-associated microbial assemblages are well adapted to withstand fluctuations in methane seepage, and we gain novel insight into particular taxa that are responsive (or recalcitrant) to changes in seep conditions.

Chu, JW, Levin LA.  1989.  Photoperiod and temperature regulation of growth and reproduction in Streblospio benedicti (Polychaeta, Spionidae). Invertebrate Reproduction & Development. 15:131-142. AbstractWebsite

Three experiments were performed to examine responses of the polychaete Streblospio benedicti Webster from North Carolina to combinations of both constant and seasonally changing daylength and temperature. S. benedicti collected in early and late fall were reared under constant (fall) and fall-winter transition daylength and temperature conditions. S. benedicti collected in spring were reared under constant (winter) and winter-spring transition daylength and temperature conditions. In a third experiment, S. benedicti was kept at constant temperature (20°C) and two fixed daylength treatments.Survivorship and maturation of S. benedicti were unaffected by daylength, but body size (setiger number and length), brooding activity and brood size were subject to photoperiod influence. Decreasing daylength and temperature each led to slower growth in the fall-winter transition experiment. Increasing daylength and temperature led to more rapid growth in the winter-spring transition experiment. Long fixed daylength had the same effect. The proportion of females brooding declined under decreasing daylength and/or temperature, but was unaffected by most other treatments. Photoperiod had a significant and unexpected effect on fecundity in all experiments. Brood sizes were larger under conditions of decreasing or increasing daylength relative to fixed treatments. Fixed long daylength produced larger broods of larvae than fixed short daylength. We conclude that photoperiod and temperature act together to regulate growth, reproductive activity and fecundity of S. benedicti and contribute to spring and fall recruitment peaks observed in the field. Episodic events that decouple photoperiod from normal temperature regimes may cause significant fluctuations in reproductive timing and output.

Cook, GS, Parnell PE, Levin LA.  2014.  Population connectivity shifts at high frequency within an open-coast marine protected area network. Plos One. 9   10.1371/journal.pone.0103654   AbstractWebsite

A complete understanding of population connectivity via larval dispersal is of great value to the effective design and management of marine protected areas (MPA). However empirical estimates of larval dispersal distance, self-recruitment, and within season variability of population connectivity patterns and their influence on metapopulation structure remain rare. We used high-resolution otolith microchemistry data from the temperate reef fish Hypsypops rubicundus to explore biweekly, seasonal, and annual connectivity patterns in an open-coast MPA network. The three MPAs, spanning 46 km along the southern California coastline were connected by larval dispersal, but the magnitude and direction of connections reversed between 2008 and 2009. Self-recruitment, i.e. spawning, dispersal, and settlement to the same location, was observed at two locations, one of which is a MPA. Self-recruitment to this MPA ranged from 50-84%; within the entire 60 km study region, self-recruitment accounted for 45% of all individuals settling to study reefs. On biweekly time scales we observed directional variability in alongshore current data and larval dispersal trajectories; if viewed in isolation these data suggest the system behaves as a source-sink metapopulation. However aggregate biweekly data over two years reveal a reef network in which H. rubicundus behaves more like a well-mixed metapopulation. As one of the few empirical studies of population connectivity within a temperate open coast reef network, this work can inform the MPA design process, implementation of ecosystem based management plans, and facilitate conservation decisions.

Cook, AA, Lambshead PJD, Hawkins LE, Mitchell N, Levin LA.  2000.  Nematode abundance at the oxygen minimum zone in the Arabian Sea. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 47:75-85.   10.1016/s0967-0645(99)00097-1   AbstractWebsite

This paper supports the hypothesis that low oxygen does not influence deep-sea nematode abundance by investigating an oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) on the Oman slope in the Arabian Sea. Correlation with a number of environmental variables indicated that food quality (measured as the hydrogen index) rather than oxygen was the major predictor of nematode abundance. Nematode abundance was also positively correlated with abundance of total macrofauna, annelids, spionid polychaetes and macrofaunal tube builders. Comparison with published data showed Arabian Sea nematode abundance to be similar to that of the Porcupine Seabight and Bay of Biscay regions of the northeast Atlantic, which also receive significant quantities of phytodetritus but have no OMZ. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Cordes, EE, Cunha MR, Galeron J, Mora C, Olu-Le Roy K, Sibuet M, Van Gaever S, Vanreusel A, Levin LA.  2010.  The influence of geological, geochemical, and biogenic habitat heterogeneity on seep biodiversity. Marine Ecology-an Evolutionary Perspective. 31:51-65.   10.1111/j.1439-0485.2009.00334.x   AbstractWebsite

Cold seeps are among the most heterogeneous of all continental margin habitats. Abiotic Sources of heterogeneity in these systems include local variability in fluid flow, geochemistry, and substrate type, which give rise to different sets of microbial communities, microbial symbiont-bearing foundation species, and associated heterotrophic species. Biogenic habitats created by microbial mats and the symbiotic species including vesicomyid clams, bathymodiolin mussels, and siboglinid tubeworms add an additional layer of complexity to seep habitats. These forms of habitat heterogeneity result in a variety of macrofaunal and meiofaunal communities that respond to changes in structural complexity, habitat geochemistry, nutrient sources, and interspecific interactions in different ways and at different scales. These responses are predicted by a set of theoretical metacommunity models, the most appropriate of which for seep systems appears to be the 'species sorting' concept, an extension of niche theory. This concept is demonstrated through predictable patterns of community assembly, succession, and beta-level diversity. These processes are described using a newly developed analytical technique examining the change in the slope of the species accumulation curve with the number of habitats examined. The diversity response to heterogeneity has a consistent form, but quantitatively changes at different seep sites around the world as the types of habitats present and the size-classes of fauna analyzed change. The increase in beta diversity across seep habitat types demonstrates that cold seeps and associated biogenic habitats are significant sources of heterogeneity on continental margins globally.

Cowie, GL, Levin LA.  2009.  Benthic biological and biogeochemical patterns and processes across an oxygen minimum zone (Pakistan margin, NE Arabian Sea). Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 56:261-270.   10.1016/j.dsr2.2008.10.001   AbstractWebsite

Oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) impinging on continental margins present sharp gradients ideal for testing environmental factors thought to influence C cycling and other benthic processes, and for identifying the roles that biota play in these processes. Here we introduce the objectives and initial results of a multinational research program designed to address the influences of water depth, the OMZ (similar to 150-1300 m), and organic matter (OM) availability on benthic communities and processes across the Pakistan Margin of the Arabian Sea. Hydrologic, sediment, and faunal characterizations were combined with in-situ and shipboard experiments to quantify and compare biogeochemical processes and fluxes, OM burial efficiency, and the contributions of benthic communities, across the OMZ. In this introductory paper, we briefly review previous related work in the Arabian Sea, building the rationale for integrative biogeochemical and ecological process studies. This is followed by a summary of individual volume contributions and a brief synthesis of results. Five primary stations were studied, at 140, 300, 940,1200 and 1850 m water depth, with sampling in March-May (intermonsoon) and August-October (late-to-postmonsoon) 2003. Taken together, the contributed papers demonstrate distinct cross-margin gradients, not only in oxygenation and sediment OM content, but in benthic community structure and function, including microbial processes, the extent of bioturbation, and faunal roles in C cycling. Hydrographic studies demonstrated changes in the intensity and extent of the OMZ during the SW monsoon, with a shoaling of the upper OMZ boundary that engulfed the previously oxygenated 140-m site. Oxygen profiling and microbial process rate determinations demonstrated dramatic differences in oxygen penetration and consumption across the margin, and in the relative importance of anaerobic processes, but surprisingly little seasonal change. A broad maximum in sediment OM content occurred on the upper slope, roughly coincident with the OMZ; but the otherwise poor correlation with bottom-water oxygen concentrations indicated that other factors are important in determining sediment OM distributions. Downcore profiles generally showed little clear evidence of in-situ OM alteration, and there was little sign of OM enrichment resulting from the southwest monsoon in sediments collected in the late-to-postmonsoon sampling. This is interpreted to be due to rapid cycling of labile OM. Organic geochemical studies confirmed that sediment OM is overwhelmingly of marine origin across the margin, but also that it is heavily altered, with only small changes in degradation state across the OMZ. More negative stable C isotopic compositions in surficial sediments at hypoxic sites within the OMZ core are attributed to a chemosynthetic bacterial imprint. Dramatic changes in benthic community structure occurred across the lower OMZ transition, apparently related to OM availability and quality as well as to DO concentrations. High-resolution sampling, biomarkers and isotope tracer studies revealed that oxygen availability appears to exert threshold-type controls on benthic community structure and early faunal C processing. Biomarker studies also provided evidence of faunal influence on sediment OM composition. Together, the results offer strong evidence that benthic fauna at sites across the margin play important roles in the early cycling of sediment OM through differential feeding and bioturbation activities. (C) 2008 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Currin, CA, Levin LA, Talley TS, Michener R, Talley D.  2011.  The role of cyanobacteria in Southern California salt marsh food webs. Marine Ecology. 32:346-363.: Blackwell Publishing Ltd   10.1111/j.1439-0485.2011.00476.x   AbstractWebsite

Understanding wetland food webs is critical for effective habitat management, restoration and conservation. Microalgae are recognized as key food sources for marsh invertebrates but the importance of different groups under various conditions is rarely examined. We tested the hypothesis that faunal utilization of microalgae, and cyanobacteria in particular, is significant in Southern California created and natural salt marshes but varies with habitat type (creek bank versus marsh interior) and season (spring versus autumn). We used stable isotope analysis and mixing models (IsoSource) to compare food webs in adjacent young (created) and mature (natural) salt marshes. Isotopic values of some primary producers, macrofauna, epifauna, and fish demonstrated significant differences between the adjacent salt marshes. δ13C and δ34S values of the benthic microalgal community varied with taxonomic composition (diatoms versus cyanobacteria) and to a lesser extent with season. Depleted δ15N values of benthic diatoms and macroalgae indicated that N2 fixed within algal mats was recycled within the benthic algal community. Marsh fauna, including most major macrofauna taxal, Cerithidea, and Fundulus, also exhibited seasonal differences in isotopic composition, and Cerithidea and selected macrofauna (oligochaetes, polychaetes) from the marsh interior were more enriched in 13C and depleted in 15N than those from the creek bank. In the young marsh, the cyanobacteria contributed a minimum of 17–100% of the primary production in food webs supporting macrofauna, and cyanobacteria contributed at least 40% of the primary production included in Cerithidea and Fundulus food webs. A wider range of primary producers contributed to food webs in the mature marsh. Cyanobacteria were a greater source of trophic support for macrofauna from the marsh interior than the creek bank, whereas Spartina was a more important food source for creek bank macrofauna in both marshes. Insect larvae largely consumed cyanobacteria, whereas polychaetes exhibited greater utilization of Spartina. Phytoplankton was the primary food resource for mussels in both marshes. Although the spatial and temporal complexity of food webs has traditionally been collapsed into the study of relatively simplified food webs, isotope signatures reveal fine-scale patterns in food web structure that may be used to make more accurate assessments of ecosystem state. Accurate interpretation of marsh trophic structure using natural abundance stable isotopes requires fine-scale resolution in space and time, a large number of samples, and a high level of taxonomic resolution.