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Levin, LA, Bett BJ, Gates AR, Heimbach P, Howe BM, Janssen F, McCurdy A, Ruhl HA, Snelgrove P, Stocks KI, Bailey D, Baumann-Pickering S, Beaverson C, Benfield MC, Booth DJ, Carreiro-Silva M, Colaco A, Eble MC, Fowler AM, Gjerde KM, Jones DOB, Katsumata K, Kelley D, Le Bris N, Leonardi AP, Lejzerowicz F, Macreadie PI, McLean D, Meitz F, Morato T, Netburn A, Pawlowski J, Smith CR, Sun S, Uchida H, Vardaro MF, Venkatesan R, Weller RA.  2019.  Global observing needs in the deep ocean. Frontiers in Marine Science. 6   10.3389/fmars.2019.00241   AbstractWebsite

The deep ocean below 200 m water depth is the least observed, but largest habitat on our planet by volume and area. Over 150 years of exploration has revealed that this dynamic system provides critical climate regulation, houses a wealth of energy, mineral, and biological resources, and represents a vast repository of biological diversity. A long history of deep-ocean exploration and observation led to the initial concept for the Deep-Ocean Observing Strategy (DOOS), under the auspices of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). Here we discuss the scientific need for globally integrated deep-ocean observing, its status, and the key scientific questions and societal mandates driving observing requirements over the next decade. We consider the Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs) needed to address deep-ocean challenges within the physical, biogeochemical, and biological/ecosystem sciences according to the Framework for Ocean Observing (FOO), and map these onto scientific questions. Opportunities for new and expanded synergies among deep-ocean stakeholders are discussed, including academic-industry partnerships with the oil and gas, mining, cable and fishing industries, the ocean exploration and mapping community, and biodiversity conservation initiatives. Future deep-ocean observing will benefit from the greater integration across traditional disciplines and sectors, achieved through demonstration projects and facilitated reuse and repurposing of existing deep-sea data efforts. We highlight examples of existing and emerging deep-sea methods and technologies, noting key challenges associated with data volume, preservation, standardization, and accessibility. Emerging technologies relevant to deep-ocean sustainability and the blue economy include novel genomics approaches, imaging technologies, and ultra-deep hydrographic measurements. Capacity building will be necessary to integrate capabilities into programs and projects at a global scale. Progress can be facilitated by Open Science and Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable (FAIR) data principles and converge on agreed to data standards, practices, vocabularies, and registries. We envision expansion of the deep-ocean observing community to embrace the participation of academia, industry, NGOs, national governments, international governmental organizations, and the public at large in order to unlock critical knowledge contained in the deep ocean over coming decades, and to realize the mutual benefits of thoughtful deep-ocean observing for all elements of a sustainable ocean.

Sato, KN, Andersson AJ, Day JMD, Taylor JRA, Frank MB, Jung JY, McKittrick J, Levin LA.  2018.  Response of sea urchin fitness traits to environmental gradients across the Southern California oxygen minimum zone. Frontiers in Marine Science. 5   10.3389/fmars.2018.00258   AbstractWebsite

Marine calcifiers are considered to be among the most vulnerable taxa to climate-forced environmental changes occurring on continental margins with effects hypothesized to occur on microstructural, biomechanical, and geochemical properties of carbonate structures. Natural gradients in temperature, salinity, oxygen, and pH on an upwelling margin combined with the broad depth distribution (100-1,100 m) of the pink fragile sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus (formerly Allocentrotus) fragilis, along the southern California shelf and slope provide an ideal system to evaluate potential effects of multiple climate variables on carbonate structures in situ. We measured, for the first time, trait variability across four distinct depth zones using natural gradients as analogues for species-specific implications of oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) expansion, deoxygenation and ocean acidification. Although S. fragilis may likely be tolerant of future oxygen and pH decreases predicted during the twenty-first century, we determine from adults collected across multiple depth zones that urchin size and potential reproductive fitness (gonad index) are drastically reduced in the OMZ core (450-900 m) compared to adjacent zones. Increases in porosity and mean pore size coupled with decreases in mechanical nanohardness and stiffness of the calcitic endoskeleton in individuals collected from lower pH(Total) (7.57-7.59) and lower dissolved oxygen (13-42 mu mol kg(-1)) environments suggest that S. fragilis may be potentially vulnerable to crushing predators if these conditions become more widespread in the future. In addition, elemental composition indicates that S. fragilis has a skeleton composed of the low Mg-calcite mineral phase of calcium carbonate (mean Mg/Ca = 0.02 mol mol(-1)), with Mg/Ca values measured in the lower end of values reported for sea urchins known to date. Together these findings suggest that ongoing declines in oxygen and pH will likely affect the ecology and fitness of a dominant echinoid on the California margin.

Dunn, DC, Vandover CL, Etter RJ, Smith CR, Levin LA, Morato T, Colaco A, Dale AC, Gebruk AV, Gjerde KM, Halpin PN, Howell KL, Johnson D, Perez JAA, Ribeiro MC, Stuckas H, Weaver P, Participants SW.  2018.  A strategy for the conservation of biodiversity on mid-ocean ridges from deep-sea mining. Science Advances. 4   10.1126/sciadv.aar4313   AbstractWebsite

Mineral exploitation has spread from land to shallow coastal waters and is now planned for the offshore, deep seabed. Large seafloor areas are being approved for exploration for seafloor mineral deposits, creating an urgent need for regional environmental management plans. Networks of areas where mining and mining impacts are prohibited are key elements of these plans. We adapt marine reserve design principles to the distinctive biophysical environment of mid-ocean ridges, offer a framework for design and evaluation of these networks to support conservation of benthic ecosystems on mid-ocean ridges, and introduce projected climate-induced changes in the deep sea to the evaluation of reserve design. We enumerate a suite of metrics to measure network performance against conservation targets and network design criteria promulgated by the Convention on Biological Diversity. We apply these metrics to network scenarios on the northern and equatorial Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where contractors are exploring for seafloor massive sulfide (SMS) deposits. A latitudinally distributed network of areas performs well at (i) capturing ecologically important areas and 30 to 50% of the spreading ridge areas, (ii) replicating representative areas, (iii) maintaining along-ridge population connectivity, and (iv) protecting areas potentially less affected by climate-related changes. Critically, the network design is adaptive, allowing for refinement based on new knowledge and the location of mining sites, provided that design principles and conservation targets are maintained. This framework can be applied along the global mid-ocean ridge system as a precautionary measure to protect biodiversity and ecosystem function from impacts of SMS mining.

Sato, KN, Powell J, Rudie D, Levin LA.  2018.  Evaluating the promise and pitfalls of a potential climate change-tolerant sea urchin fishery in southern California. Ices Journal of Marine Science. 75:1029-1041.   10.1093/icesjms/fsx225   AbstractWebsite

Marine fishery stakeholders are beginning to consider and implement adaptation strategies in the face of growing consumer demand and potential deleterious climate change impacts such as ocean warming, ocean acidification, and deoxygenation. This study investigates the potential for development of a novel climate change-tolerant sea urchin fishery in southern California based on Strongylocentrotus fragilis (pink sea urchin), a deep-sea species whose peak density was found to coincide with a current trap-based spot prawn fishery (Pandalus platyceros) in the 200-300-m depth range. Here we outline potential criteria for a climate change-tolerant fishery by examining the distribution, life-history attributes, and marketable qualities of S. fragilis in southern California. We provide evidence of seasonality of gonad production and demonstrate that peak gonad production occurs in the winter season. S. fragilis likely spawns in the spring season as evidenced by consistent minimum gonad indices in the spring/summer seasons across 4 years of sampling (2012-2016). The resiliency of S. fragilis to predicted future increases in acidity and decreases in oxygen was supported by high species abundance, albeit reduced relative growth rate estimates at water depths (485-510 m) subject to low oxygen (11.7-16.9 mmol kg similar to 1) and pHTotal (< 7.44), which may provide assurances to stakeholders and managers regarding the suitability of this species for commercial exploitation. Some food quality properties of the S. fragilis roe (e. g. colour, texture) were comparable with those of the commercially exploited shallow-water red sea urchin (Mesocentrotus franciscanus), while other qualities (e. g. 80% reduced gonad size by weight) limit the potential future marketability of S. fragilis. This case study highlights the potential future challenges and drawbacks of climate-tolerant fishery development in an attempt to inform future urchin fishery stakeholders.

Niner, HJ, Ardron JA, Escobar EG, Gianni M, Jaeckel A, Jones DOB, Levin LA, Smith CR, Thiele T, Turner PJ, Vandover CL, Watling L, Gjerde KM.  2018.  Deep-sea mining with no net loss of biodiversity-an impossible aim. Frontiers in Marine Science. 5   10.3389/fmars.2018.00053   AbstractWebsite

Deep-sea mining is likely to result in biodiversity loss, and the significance of this to ecosystem function is not known. "Out of kind" biodiversity offsets substituting one ecosystem type (e.g., coral reefs) for another (e.g., abyssal nodule fields) have been proposed to compensate for such loss. Here we consider a goal of no net loss (NNL) of biodiversity and explore the challenges of applying this aim to deep seabed mining, based on the associated mitigation hierarchy (avoid, minimize, remediate). We conclude that the industry cannot at present deliver an outcome of NNL. This results from the vulnerable nature of deep-sea environments to mining impacts, currently limited technological capacity to minimize harm, significant gaps in ecological knowledge, and uncertainties of recovery potential of deep-sea ecosystems. Avoidance and minimization of impacts are therefore the only presently viable means of reducing biodiversity losses from seabed mining. Because of these constraints, when and if deep-sea mining proceeds, it must be approached in a precautionary and step-wise manner to integrate new and developing knowledge. Each step should be subject to explicit environmental management goals, monitoring protocols, and binding standards to avoid serious environmental harm and minimize loss of biodiversity. "Out of kind" measures, an option for compensation currently proposed, cannot replicate biodiversity and ecosystem services lost through mining of the deep seabed and thus cannot be considered true offsets. The ecosystem functions provided by deep-sea biodiversity contribute to a wide range of provisioning services (e.g., the exploitation of fish, energy, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics), play an essential role in regulatory services (e.g., carbon sequestration) and are important culturally. The level of "acceptable" biodiversity loss in the deep sea requires public, transparent, and well-informed consideration, as well as wide agreement. If accepted, further agreement on how to assess residual losses remaining after the robust implementation of the mitigation hierarchy is also imperative. To ameliorate some of the inter-generational inequity caused by mining-associated biodiversity losses, and only after all NNL measures have been used to the fullest extent, potential compensatory actions would need to be focused on measures to improve the knowledge and protection of the deep sea and to demonstrate benefits that will endure for future generations.

Breitburg, D, Levin LA, Oschlies A, Grégoire M, Chavez FP, Conley DJ, Garçon V, Gilbert D, Gutiérrez D, Isensee K, Jacinto GS, Limburg KE, Montes I, Naqvi SWA, Pitcher GC, Rabalais NN, Roman MR, Rose KA, Seibel BA, Telszewski M, Yasuhara M, Zhang J.  2018.  Declining oxygen in the global ocean and coastal waters. Science. 359   10.1126/science.aam7240   Abstract

As plastic waste pollutes the oceans and fish stocks decline, unseen below the surface another problem grows: deoxygenation. Breitburg et al. review the evidence for the downward trajectory of oxygen levels in increasing areas of the open ocean and coastal waters. Rising nutrient loads coupled with climate change—each resulting from human activities—are changing ocean biogeochemistry and increasing oxygen consumption. This results in destabilization of sediments and fundamental shifts in the availability of key nutrients. In the short term, some compensatory effects may result in improvements in local fisheries, such as in cases where stocks are squeezed between the surface and elevated oxygen minimum zones. In the longer term, these conditions are unsustainable and may result in ecosystem collapses, which ultimately will cause societal and economic harm.

Sweetman, AK, Thurber AR, Smith CR, Levin LA, Mora C, Wei CL, Gooday AJ, Jones DOB, Rex M, Yasuhara M, Ingels J, Ruhl HA, Frieder CA, Danovaro R, Wurzberg L, Baco A, Grupe BM, Pasulka A, Meyer KS, Dunlop KM, Henry LA, Roberts JM.  2017.  Major impacts of climate change on deep-sea benthic ecosystems. Elementa-Science of the Anthropocene. 5:1-23.   10.1525/elementa.203   AbstractWebsite

The deep sea encompasses the largest ecosystems on Earth. Although poorly known, deep seafloor ecosystems provide services that are vitally important to the entire ocean and biosphere. Rising atmospheric greenhouse gases are bringing about significant changes in the environmental properties of the ocean realm in terms of water column oxygenation, temperature, pH and food supply, with concomitant impacts on deep-sea ecosystems. Projections suggest that abyssal (3000-6000 m) ocean temperatures could increase by 1 degrees C over the next 84 years, while abyssal seafloor habitats under areas of deep-water formation may experience reductions in water column oxygen concentrations by as much as 0.03 mL L-1 by 2100. Bathyal depths (200-3000 m) worldwide will undergo the most significant reductions in pH in all oceans by the year 2100 (0.29 to 0.37 pH units). O-2 concentrations will also decline in the bathyal NE Pacific and Southern Oceans, with losses up to 3.7% or more, especially at intermediate depths. Another important environmental parameter, the flux of particulate organic matter to the seafloor, is likely to decline significantly in most oceans, most notably in the abyssal and bathyal Indian Ocean where it is predicted to decrease by 40-55% by the end of the century. Unfortunately, how these major changes will affect deep-seafloor ecosystems is, in some cases, very poorly understood. In this paper, we provide a detailed overview of the impacts of these changing environmental parameters on deep-seafloor ecosystems that will most likely be seen by 2100 in continental margin, abyssal and polar settings. We also consider how these changes may combine with other anthropogenic stressors (e.g., fishing, mineral mining, oil and gas extraction) to further impact deep-seafloor ecosystems and discuss the possible societal implications.

Levin, LA, Mengerink K, Gjerde KM, Rowden AA, Vandover CL, Clark MR, Ramirez-Llodra E, Currie B, Smith CR, Sato KN, Gallo N, Sweetman AK, Lily H, Armstrong CW, Brider J.  2016.  Defining "serious harm" to the marine environment in the context of deep-seabed mining. Marine Policy. 74:245-259.   10.1016/j.marpol.2016.09.032   AbstractWebsite

Increasing interest in deep-seabed mining has raised many questions surrounding its potential environmental impacts and how to assess the impacts' significance. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the International Seabed Authority (ISA) is charged with ensuring effective protection of the marine environment as part of its responsibilities for managing mining in seabed areas beyond national jurisdiction (the Area) on behalf of humankind. This paper examines the international legal context for protection of the marine environment and defining the significant adverse change that can cause "serious harm", a term used in the ISA Mining Code to indicate a level of harm that strong actions must be taken to avoid. It examines the thresholds and indicators that can reflect significant adverse change and considers the specific vulnerability of the four ecosystems associated with the minerals targeted for mining: (1) manganese (polymetallic) nodules, (2) seafloor massive (polymetallic) sulphides, (3) cobalt-rich (polymetallic) crusts and (4) phosphorites. The distributions and ecological setting, probable mining approaches and the potential environmental impacts of mining are examined for abyssal polymetallic nodule provinces, hydrothermal vents, seamounts and phosphorite-rich continental margins. Discussion focuses on the special features of the marine environment that affect the significance of the predicted environmental impacts and suggests actions that will advance understanding of these impacts.

Pasulka, AL, Levin LA, Steele JA, Case DH, Landry MR, Orphan VJ.  2016.  Microbial eukaryotic distributions and diversity patterns in a deep-sea methane seep ecosystem. Environmental Microbiology. 18:3022-3043.   10.1111/1462-2920.13185   AbstractWebsite

Although chemosynthetic ecosystems are known to support diverse assemblages of microorganisms, the ecological and environmental factors that structure microbial eukaryotes (heterotrophic protists and fungi) are poorly characterized. In this study, we examined the geographic, geochemical and ecological factors that influence microbial eukaryotic composition and distribution patterns within Hydrate Ridge, a methane seep ecosystem off the coast of Oregon using a combination of high-throughput 18S rRNA tag sequencing, terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism fingerprinting, and cloning and sequencing of full-length 18S rRNA genes. Microbial eukaryotic composition and diversity varied as a function of substrate (carbonate versus sediment), activity (low activity versus active seep sites), sulfide concentration, and region (North versus South Hydrate Ridge). Sulfide concentration was correlated with changes in microbial eukaryotic composition and richness. This work also revealed the influence of oxygen content in the overlying water column and water depth on microbial eukaryotic composition and diversity, and identified distinct patterns from those previously observed for bacteria, archaea and macrofauna in methane seep ecosystems. Characterizing the structure of microbial eukaryotic communities in response to environmental variability is a key step towards understanding if and how microbial eukaryotes influence seep ecosystem structure and function.

Sperling, EA, Frieder CA, Levin LA.  2016.  Biodiversity response to natural gradients of multiple stressors on continental margins. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences. 283   10.1098/rspb.2016.0637   Abstract

Sharp increases in atmospheric CO2 are resulting in ocean warming, acidification and deoxygenation that threaten marine organisms on continental margins and their ecological functions and resulting ecosystem services. The relative influence of these stressors on biodiversity remains unclear, as well as the threshold levels for change and when secondary stressors become important. One strategy to interpret adaptation potential and predict future faunal change is to examine ecological shifts along natural gradients in the modern ocean. Here, we assess the explanatory power of temperature, oxygen and the carbonate system for macrofaunal diversity and evenness along continental upwelling margins using variance partitioning techniques. Oxygen levels have the strongest explanatory capacity for variation in species diversity. Sharp drops in diversity are seen as O2 levels decline through the 0.5–0.15 ml l−1 (approx. 22–6 µM; approx. 21–5 matm) range, and as temperature increases through the 7–10°C range. pCO2 is the best explanatory variable in the Arabian Sea, but explains little of the variance in diversity in the eastern Pacific Ocean. By contrast, very little variation in evenness is explained by these three global change variables. The identification of sharp thresholds in ecological response are used here to predict areas of the seafloor where diversity is most at risk to future marine global change, noting that the existence of clear regional differences cautions against applying global thresholds.

Neira, C, Mendoza G, Porrachia M, Stransky C, Levin LA.  2015.  Macrofaunal recolonization of copper-contaminated sediments in San Diego Bay. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 101:794-804.   10.1016/j.marpolbul.2015.09.023   AbstractWebsite

Effects of Cu-loading on macrofaunal recolonization were examined in Shelter Island Yacht Basin (San Diego Bay, California). Sediments with high and low Cu levels were defaunated and Cu-spiked, translocated, and then placed back into the environment These demonstrated that the alteration observed in benthic communities associated with Cu contamination occurs during initial recolonization. After a 3-month exposure to sediments with varying Cu levels, two primary colonizing communities were identified: (1) a "mouth assemblage" resembling adjacent background fauna associated with low-Cu levels that was more diverse and predominantly dominated by surface- and subsurface-deposit feeders, burrowers, and tube builders, and (2) a "head assemblage" resembling adjacent background fauna associated with high-Cu concentrations, with few dominant species and an increasing importance of carnivores and mobile epifauna. Cu loading can cause reduced biodiversity and lower structural complexity that may last several months if high concentrations persist, with a direct effect on community functioning. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Askarizadeh, A, Rippy MA, Fletcher TD, Feldman DL, Peng J, Bowler P, Mehring AS, Winfrey BK, Vrugt JA, AghaKouchak A, Jiang SC, Sanders BF, Levin LA, Taylor S, Grant SB.  2015.  From rain tanks to catchments: Use of low-impact development to address hydrologic symptoms of the urban stream syndrome. Environmental Science & Technology. 49:11264-11280.   10.1021/acs.est.5b01635   AbstractWebsite

Catchment urbanization perturbs the water and sediment budgets of streams, degrades stream health and function, and causes a constellation of flow, water quality, and ecological symptoms collectively known as the urban stream syndrome. Low-impact development (LID) technologies address the hydrologic symptoms of the urban stream syndrome by mimicking natural flow paths and restoring a natural water balance. Over annual time scales, the volumes of stormwater that should be infiltrated and harvested can be estimated from a catchment-scale water-balance given local climate conditions and preurban land cover. For all but the wettest regions of the world, a much larger volume of stormwater runoff should be harvested than infiltrated to maintain stream hydrology in a preurban state. Efforts to prevent or reverse hydrologic symptoms associated with the urban stream syndrome will therefore require: (1) selecting the right mix of LID technologies that provide regionally tailored ratios of stormwater harvesting and infiltration; (2) integrating these LID technologies into next-generation drainage systems; (3) maximizing potential cobenefits including water supply augmentation, flood protection, improved water quality, and urban amenities; and (4) long-term hydrologic monitoring to evaluate the efficacy of LID interventions.

Ramirez-Llodra, E, Trannum HC, Evenset A, Levin LA, Andersson M, Finne TE, Hilario A, Flem B, Christensen G, Schaanning M, Vanreusel A.  2015.  Submarine and deep-sea mine tailing placements: A review of current practices, environmental issues, natural analogs and knowledge gaps in Norway and internationally. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 97:13-35.   10.1016/j.marpolbul.2015.05.062   AbstractWebsite

The mining sector is growing in parallel with societal demands for minerals. One of the most important environmental issues and economic burdens of industrial mining on land is the safe storage of the vast amounts of waste produced. Traditionally, tailings have been stored in land dams, but the lack of land availability, potential risk of dam failure and topography in coastal areas in certain countries results in increasing disposal of tailings into marine systems. This review describes the different submarine tailing disposal methods used in the world in general and in Norway in particular, their impact on the environment (e.g. hyper-sedimentation, toxicity, processes related to changes in grain shape and size, turbidity), current legislation and need for future research. Understanding these impacts on the habitat and biota is essential to assess potential ecosystem changes and to develop best available techniques and robust management plans. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Breitburg, DL, Salisbury J, Bernhard JM, Cai WJ, Dupont S, Doney SC, Kroeker KJ, Levin LA, Long WC, Milke LM, Miller SH, Phelan B, Passow U, Seibel BA, Todgham AE, Tarrant AM.  2015.  And on top of all that... Coping with ocean acidification in the midst of many stressors. Oceanography. 28:48-61.   10.5670/oceanog.2015.31   AbstractWebsite

Oceanic and coastal waters are acidifying due to processes dominated in the open ocean by increasing atmospheric CO2 and dominated in estuaries and some coastal waters by nutrient-fueled respiration. The patterns and severity of acidification, as well as its effects, are modified by the host of stressors related to human activities that also influence these habitats. Temperature, deoxygenation, and changes in food webs are particularly important co-stressors because they are pervasive, and both their causes and effects are often mechanistically linked to acidification. Development of a theoretical underpinning to multiple stressor research that considers physiological, ecological, and evolutionary perspectives is needed because testing all combinations of stressors and stressor intensities experimentally is impossible. Nevertheless, use of a wide variety of research approaches is a logical and promising strategy for improving understanding of acidification and its effects. Future research that focuses on spatial and temporal patterns of stressor interactions and on identifying mechanisms by which multiple stressors affect individuals, populations, and ecosystems is critical. It is also necessary to incorporate consideration of multiple stressors into management, mitigation, and adaptation to acidification and to increase public and policy recognition of the importance of addressing acidification in the context of the suite of other stressors with which it potentially interacts.

Levin, LA, Liu KK, Emeis KC, Breitburg DL, Cloern J, Deutsch C, Giani M, Goffart A, Hofmann EE, Lachkar Z, Limburg K, Liu SM, Montes E, Naqvi W, Ragueneau O, Rabouille C, Sarkar SK, Swaney DP, Wassman P, Wishner KF.  2015.  Comparative biogeochemistry-ecosystem-human interactions on dynamic continental margins. Journal of Marine Systems. 141:3-17.   10.1016/j.jmarsys.2014.04.016   AbstractWebsite

The oceans' continental margins face strong and rapid change, forced by a combination of direct human activity, anthropogenic CO2-induced climate change, and natural variability. Stimulated by discussions in Goa, India at the IMBER IMBIZO III, we (1) provide an overview of the drivers of biogeochemical variation and change on margins, (2) compare temporal trends in hydrographic and biogeochemical data across different margins, (3) review ecosystem responses to these changes, (4) highlight the importance of margin time series for detecting and attributing change and (5) examine societal responses to changing margin biogeochemistry and ecosystems. We synthesize information over a wide range of margin settings in order to identify the commonalities and distinctions among continental margin ecosystems. Key drivers of biogeochemical variation include long-term climate cycles, CO2-induced warming, acidification, and deoxygenation, as well as sea level rise, eutrophication, hydrologic and water cycle alteration, changing land use, fishing, and species invasion. Ecosystem responses are complex and impact major margin services. These include primary production, fisheries production, nutrient cycling, shoreline protection, chemical buffering, and biodiversity. Despite regional differences, the societal consequences of these changes are unarguably large and mandate coherent actions to reduce, mitigate and adapt to multiple stressors on continental margins. (C) 2014 Elsevier BM. All rights reserved.

Marlow, JJ, Steele JA, Ziebis W, Thurber AR, Levin LA, Orphan VJ.  2014.  Carbonate-hosted methanotrophy represents an unrecognized methane sink in the deep sea. Nature Communications. 5   10.1038/ncomms6094   AbstractWebsite

The atmospheric flux of methane from the oceans is largely mitigated through microbially mediated sulphate-coupled methane oxidation, resulting in the precipitation of authigenic carbonates. Deep-sea carbonates are common around active and palaeo-methane seepage, and have primarily been viewed as passive recorders of methane oxidation; their role as active and unique microbial habitats capable of continued methane consumption has not been examined. Here we show that seep-associated carbonates harbour active microbial communities, serving as dynamic methane sinks. Microbial aggregate abundance within the carbonate interior exceeds that of seep sediments, and molecular diversity surveys reveal methanotrophic communities within protolithic nodules and well-lithified carbonate pavements. Aggregations of microbial cells within the carbonate matrix actively oxidize methane as indicated by stable isotope FISH-nanoSIMS experiments and (CH4)-C-14 radiotracer rate measurements. Carbonate-hosted methanotrophy extends the known ecological niche of these important methane consumers and represents a previously unrecognized methane sink that warrants consideration in global methane budgets.

Larkin, KE, Gooday AJ, Woulds C, Jeffreys RM, Schwartz M, Cowie G, Whitcraft C, Levin L, Dick JR, Pond DW.  2014.  Uptake of algal carbon and the likely synthesis of an "essential" fatty acid by Uvigerina ex. gr. semiornata (Foraminifera) within the Pakistan margin oxygen minimum zone: evidence from fatty acid biomarker and C-13 tracer experiments. Biogeosciences. 11:3729-3738.   10.5194/bg-11-3729-2014   AbstractWebsite

Foraminifera are an important component of benthic communities in oxygen-depleted settings, where they potentially play a significant role in the processing of organic matter. We tracked the uptake of a C-13-labelled algal food source into individual fatty acids in the benthic foraminiferal species Uvigerina ex. gr. semiornata from the Arabian Sea oxygen minimum zone (OMZ). The tracer experiments were conducted on the Pakistan margin during the late/post monsoon period (August-October 2003). A monoculture of the diatom Thalassiosira weisflogii was C-13-labelled and used to simulate a pulse of phytoplankton in two complementary experiments. A lander system was used for in situ incubations at 140m water depth and for 2.5 days in duration. Shipboard laboratory incubations of cores collected at 140 m incorporated an oxystat system to maintain ambient dissolved oxygen concentrations and were terminated after 5 days. Uptake of diatoms was rapid, with a high incorporation of diatom fatty acids into foraminifera after similar to 2 days in both experiments. Ingestion of the diatom food source was indicated by the increase over time in the quantity of diatom biomarker fatty acids in the foraminifera and by the high percentage of C-13 in many of the fatty acids present at the endpoint of both in situ and laboratory-based experiments. These results indicate that U. ex. gr. semiornata rapidly ingested the diatom food source and that these foraminifera will play an important role in the short-term cycling of organic matter within this OMZ environment. The presence of 18:1(n-7) in the experimental foraminifera suggested that U. ex. gr. semiornata also consumed non-labelled bacterial food items. In addition, levels of 20:4(n-6), a PUFA only present in low amounts in the diatom food, increased dramatically in the foraminifera during both the in situ and shipboard experiments, possibly because it was synthesised de novo. This "essential fatty acid" is often abundant in benthic fauna, yet its origins and function have remained unclear. If U. ex. gr. semiornata is capable of de novo synthesis of 20:4(n-6), then it represents a potentially major source of this dietary nutrient in benthic food webs.

Zapata-Hernandez, G, Sellanes J, Thurber AR, Levin LA.  2014.  Trophic structure of the bathyal benthos at an area with evidence of methane seep activity off southern Chile (similar to 45 degrees S). Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. 94:659-669.   10.1017/s0025315413001914   AbstractWebsite

Through application of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) stable isotope analyses, we investigated the benthic trophic structure of the upper-slope off southern Chile (similar to 45 degrees S) including a recent methane seep area discovered as part of this study. The observed fauna comprised 53 invertebrates and seven fish taxa, including remains of chemosymbiotic fauna (e.g. chemosymbiotic bivalves and siboglinid polychaetes), which are typical of methane seep environments. While in close-proximity to a seep, the heterotrophic fauna had a nutrition derived predominantly from photosynthetic sources (delta C-13 > -21 parts per thousand). The absence of chemosynthesis-based nutrition in the consumers was likely a result of using an Agassiz trawl to sample the benthos, a method that is likely to collect a mix of fauna including individuals from adjacent non-seep bathyal environments. While four trophic levels were estimated for invertebrates, the fish assemblage was positioned within the third trophic level of the food web. Differences in corrected standard ellipse area (SEA(C)), which is a proxy of the isotopic niche width, yielded differences for the demersal fish Notophycis marginata (SEA(C) = 5.1 parts per thousand) and Coelorinchus fasciatus (SEA(C) = 1.1 parts per thousand), suggesting distinct trophic behaviours. No ontogenic changes were detected in C. fasciatus regarding food sources and trophic position. The present study contributes the first basic trophic data for the bathyal area off southern Chile, including the identification of a new methane seep area, among the furthest south ever discovered. Such information provides the basis for the proper sustainable management of the benthic environments present along the vast Chilean continental margin.

Zapata-Hernandez, G, Sellanes J, Thurber AR, Levin LA, Chazalon F, Linke P.  2014.  New insights on the trophic ecology of bathyal communities from the methane seep area off Concepcion, Chile (similar to 36 degrees S). Marine Ecology-an Evolutionary Perspective. 35:1-21.   10.1111/maec.12051   AbstractWebsite

Studies of the trophic structure in methane-seep habitats provide insight into the ecological function of deep-sea ecosystems. Methane seep biota on the Chilean margin likely represent a novel biogeographic province; however, little is known about the ecology of the seep fauna and particularly their trophic support. The present study, using natural abundance stable isotopes, reveals a complex trophic structure among heterotrophic consumers, with four trophic levels supported by a diversity of food sources at a methane seep area off Concepcion, Chile (similar to 36 degrees S). Although methanotrophy, thiotrophy and phototrophy are all identified as carbon fixation mechanisms fueling the food web within this area, most of the analysed species (87.5%) incorporate carbon derived from photosynthesis and a smaller number (12%) use carbon derived from chemosynthesis. Methane-derived carbon (MDC) incorporation was documented in 22 taxa, including sipunculids, gastropods, polychaetes and echinoderms. In addition, wide trophic niches were detected in suspension-feeding and deposit-feeding taxa, possibly associated with the use of organic matter in different stages of degradation (e.g. from fresh to refractory). Estimates of Bayesian standard ellipses area (SEA(B)) reveal different isotopic niche breadth in the predator fishes, the Patagonian toothfish Dissostichus eleginoides and the combtooth dogfish Centroscyllium nigrum, suggesting generalist versus specialist feeding behaviors, respectively. Top predators in the ecosystem were the Patagonian toothfish D. eleginoides and the dusky cat shark, Bythaelurus canescens. The blue hake Antimora rostrata also provides a trophic link between the benthic and pelagic systems, with a diet based primarily on pelagic-derived carrion. These findings can inform accurate ecosystem models, which are critical for effective management and conservation of methane seep and adjacent deep-sea habitats in the Southeastern Pacific.

Sapir, A, Dillman AR, Connon SA, Grupe BM, Ingels J, Mundo-Ocampo M, Levin LA, Baldwin JG, Orphan VJ, Sternberg PW.  2014.  Microsporidia-nematode associations in methane seeps reveal basal fungal parasitism in the deep sea. Frontiers in Microbiology. 5   10.3389/fmicb.2014.00043   AbstractWebsite

The deep sea is Earth's largest habitat but little is known about the nature of deep-sea parasitism. In contrast to a few characterized cases of bacterial and protistan parasites, the existence and biological significance of deep-sea parasitic fungi is yet to be understood. Here we report the discovery of a fungus-related parasitic microsporidium, Nematocenator marisprofundi n. gen. n. sp. that infects benthic nematodes at methane seeps on the Pacific Ocean floor. This infection is species-specific and has been temporally and spatially stable over 2 years of sampling, indicating an ecologically consistent host-parasite interaction. A high distribution of spores in the reproductive tracts of infected males and females and their absence from host nematodes' intestines suggests a sexual transmission strategy in contrast to the fecal-oral transmission of most microsporidia. N. mansprofundi targets the host's body wall muscles causing cell lysis, and in severe infection even muscle filament degradation. Phylogenetic analyses placed N. marisprofundi in a novel and basal clade not closely related to any described microsporidia clade, suggesting either that microsporidia-nematode parasitism occurred early in microsporidia evolution or that host specialization occurred late in an ancient deep-sea microsporidian lineage. Our findings reveal that methane seeps support complex ecosystems involving interkingdom interactions between bacteria, nematodes, and parasitic fungi and that microsporidia parasitism exists also in the deep-sea biosphere.

Mengerink, KJ, Vandover CL, Ardron J, Baker M, Escobar-Briones E, Gjerde K, Koslow J, Ramirez-Llodra E, Lara-Lopez A, Squires D, Sutton T, Sweetman A, Levin LA.  2014.  A Call For Deep-Ocean Stewardship. Science. 344:696-698.
Neira, C, King I, Mendoza G, Sellanes J, De Ley P, Levin LA.  2013.  Nematode community structure along a central Chile margin transect influenced by the oxygen minimum zone. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers. 78:1-15.   AbstractWebsite

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

Thurber, AR, Levin LA, Rowden AA, Sommer S, Linke P, Kroger K.  2013.  Microbes, macrofauna, and methane: A novel seep community fueled by aerobic methanotrophy. Limnology and Oceanography. 58:1640-1656.   10.4319/lo.2013.58.5.1640   AbstractWebsite

During the discovery and description of seven New Zealand methane seep sites, an infaunal assemblage dominated by ampharetid polychaetes was found in association with high seabed methane emission. This ampharetid-bed assemblage had a mean density of 57,000 +/- 7800 macrofaunal individuals m(-2) and a maximum wet biomass of 274 g m(-2), both being among the greatest recorded from deep-sea methane seeps. We investigated these questions: Does the species assemblage present within these ampharetid beds form a distinct seep community on the New Zealand margin? and What type of chemoautotrophic microbes fuel this heterotrophic community? Unlike the other macro-infaunal assemblages, the ampharetid-bed assemblage composition was homogeneous, independent of location. Based on a mixing model of species-specific mass and isotopic composition, combined with published respiration measurements, we estimated that this community consumes 29-90 mmol C m(-2) d(-1) of methane-fueled biomass; this is > 290 times the carbon fixed by anaerobic methane oxidizers in these ampharetid beds. A fatty acid biomarker approach supported the finding that this community, unlike those previously known, consumes primarily aerobic methanotrophic bacteria. Due to the novel microbial fueling and high methane flux rates, New Zealand's ampharetid beds provide a model system to study the influence of metazoan grazing on microbially mediated biogeochemical cycles, including those that involve greenhouse gas emissions.

Sperling, EA, Frieder CA, Raman AV, Girguis PR, Levin LA, Knoll AH.  2013.  Oxygen, ecology, and the Cambrian radiation of animals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 110:13446-13451.   10.1073/pnas.1312778110   AbstractWebsite

The Proterozoic-Cambrian transition records the appearance of essentially all animal body plans (phyla), yet to date no single hypothesis adequately explains both the timing of the event and the evident increase in diversity and disparity. Ecological triggers focused on escalatory predator-prey "arms races" can explain the evolutionary pattern but not its timing, whereas environmental triggers, particularly ocean/atmosphere oxygenation, do the reverse. Using modern oxygen minimum zones as an analog for Proterozoic oceans, we explore the effect of low oxygen levels on the feeding ecology of polychaetes, the dominant macrofaunal animals in deep-sea sediments. Here we show that low oxygen is clearly linked to low proportions of carnivores in a community and low diversity of carnivorous taxa, whereas higher oxygen levels support more complex food webs. The recognition of a physiological control on carnivory therefore links environmental triggers and ecological drivers, providing an integrated explanation for both the pattern and timing of Cambrian animal radiation.

Mora, C, Wei CL, Rollo A, Amaro T, Baco AR, Billett D, Bopp L, Chen Q, Collier M, Danovaro R, Gooday AJ, Grupe BM, Halloran PR, Ingels J, Jones DOB, Levin LA, Nakano H, Norling K, Ramirez-Llodra E, Rex M, Ruhl HA, Smith CR, Sweetman AK, Thurber AR, Tjiputra JF, Usseglio P, Watling L, Wu TW, Yasuhara M.  2013.  Biotic and human vulnerability to projected changes in ocean biogeochemistry over the 21st century. Plos Biology. 11   10.1371/journal.pbio.1001682   AbstractWebsite

Ongoing greenhouse gas emissions can modify climate processes and induce shifts in ocean temperature, pH, oxygen concentration, and productivity, which in turn could alter biological and social systems. Here, we provide a synoptic global assessment of the simultaneous changes in future ocean biogeochemical variables over marine biota and their broader implications for people. We analyzed modern Earth System Models forced by greenhouse gas concentration pathways until 2100 and showed that the entire world's ocean surface will be simultaneously impacted by varying intensities of ocean warming, acidification, oxygen depletion, or shortfalls in productivity. In contrast, only a small fraction of the world's ocean surface, mostly in polar regions, will experience increased oxygenation and productivity, while almost nowhere will there be ocean cooling or pH elevation. We compiled the global distribution of 32 marine habitats and biodiversity hotspots and found that they would all experience simultaneous exposure to changes in multiple biogeochemical variables. This superposition highlights the high risk for synergistic ecosystem responses, the suite of physiological adaptations needed to cope with future climate change, and the potential for reorganization of global biodiversity patterns. If co-occurring biogeochemical changes influence the delivery of ocean goods and services, then they could also have a considerable effect on human welfare. Approximately 470 to 870 million of the poorest people in the world rely heavily on the ocean for food, jobs, and revenues and live in countries that will be most affected by simultaneous changes in ocean biogeochemistry. These results highlight the high risk of degradation of marine ecosystems and associated human hardship expected in a future following current trends in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.