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Talley, TS, Crooks JA, Levin LA.  2001.  Habitat utilization and alteration by the invasive burrowing isopod, Sphaeroma quoyanum, in California salt marshes. Marine Biology. 138:561-573.   10.1007/s002270000472   AbstractWebsite

In recent years the pace of exotic species introduction and invasion has accelerated, particularly in estuaries and wetlands. Species invasions may affect coastal ecosystems in many ways. Alteration of sedimentary environments, through structure formation and burrowing, has particularly dramatic effects on coastal habitats. This study examines modification of channel bank and marsh edge habitat by the burrowing Australasian isopod Sphaeroma quoyanum Milne Edwards, in created and natural salt marshes of San Diego Bay and San Francisco Bay. Abundance and distribution patterns of this isopod species, its relationships with habitat characteristics, and its effects on sediment properties and bank erosion were examined seasonally, and in several marsh microhabitats. Mean isopod densities were 1541 and 2936 individuals per 0.25 m(2) in San Francisco Bay, and 361 and 1153 individuals per 0.25 m(2) in San Diego Bay study sites during December and July 1998, respectively. This isopod forms dense, anastomosing burrow networks. S. quoyanum densities did not differ as a function of location within creeks or location in natural versus created marshes. Burrows, which are on average 6 mm wide and 2 cm long, were associated with firm sediments containing high detrital biomass. Although erosion is a natural process along salt marsh banks, enclosure experiments demonstrated that isopod activities can enhance sediment loss from banks. In areas infested with S. quoyanum, losses may exceed 100 cm of marsh edge per year. The effects of habitat alteration by this invading species are likely to increase in severity in the coastal zone as these ecosystems become degraded.

Talley, TS, Levin LA.  2001.  Modification of sediments and macrofauna by an invasive marsh plant. Biological Invasions. 3:51-68.   10.1023/A:1011453003168   AbstractWebsite

Invasive grasses have recently altered salt marsh ecosystems throughout the northern hemisphere. On the eastern seaboard of the USA, Phragmites australis has invaded both brackish and salt marsh habitats. Phragmites australis influence on sediments and fauna was investigated along a salinity and invasion-age gradient in marshes of the lower Connecticut River estuary. Typical salinities were about 19-4 ppt in Site I, 9-10 ppt in Site II and 5-7 ppt in Site III. Strongest effects were evident in the least saline settings (II and III) where Phragmites has been present the longest and exists in monoculture. Limited influence was evident in the most saline region (I) where Phragmites and native salt marsh plants co-occur. The vegetation within Phragmites stands in tidal regions of the Connecticut River generally exhibits taller, but less dense shoots, higher above-ground biomass, and lower below-ground biomass than does the un-invaded marsh flora. There were lower sediment organic content, greater litter accumulation and higher sediment chlorophyll a concentrations in Phragmites-invaded than un-invaded marsh habitat. Epifaunal gastropods (Succinea wilsoni and Stagnicola catascopium) were less abundant in habitats where Phragmites had invaded than in un-invaded marsh habitat. Macro-infaunal densities were lower in the Phragmites-invaded than un-invaded habitats at the two least saline sites (II and III). Phragmites stands supported more podurid insects, sabellid polychaetes, and peracarid crustaceans, fewer arachnids, midges, tubificid and enchytraeid oligochaetes, and greater habitat-wide taxon richness as measured by rarefaction, than did the uninvaded stands. The magnitude and significance of the compositional differences varied with season and with site; differences were generally greatest at the oldest, least saline sites (II and III) and during May, when faunal densities were higher than in September. However, experimental design and the 1-year study period precluded clear separation of salinity, age, and seasonal effects. Although structural effects of Phragmites on salt marsh faunas are evident, further investigation is required to determine the consequences of these effects for ecosystem function.

Talley, TS, Levin LA.  1999.  Macrofaunal succession and community structure in Salicornia marshes of southern California. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science. 49:713-731.   10.1006/ecss.1999.0553   AbstractWebsite

Lack of basic understanding of ecosystem structure and function forms a major impediment to successful conservation of coastal ecosystems. This paper provides a description of the fauna and examines faunal succession in Salicornia-vegetated sediments of southern California. Environmental attributes (vegetation and sediment properties) and macrofaunal (animals greater than or equal to 0.3 mm) community structure were examined in sediments of five natural, southern California Salicornia spp. marshes (Tijuana Estuary, San Diego Bay, Mission Bay, Upper Newport Bay and Anaheim Bay) and in created Salicornia marshes 16 months to 10 years in age, located within four of the bays. Oligochaetes and insects were the dominant taxa in both natural (71 to 98% of total fauna) and created (91 to 97%) marshes. In San Diego, Newport and Anaheim Bays, macrofaunal densities were generally higher in the created marshes (88 000 to 290 000 ind m(-2)) than in their natural counterparts (26 000 to 50 000 ind m(-2)). In the youngest system, Mission Bay, the reverse was true (natural: 113 000 vs created: 28 000 ind m-2). Similar species numbers were recorded from the created and adjacent natural marshes. Insects, especially chironomids, dolichopodids, and heleids, as well as the naidid oligochaete, Paranais litoralis, characterize early successional stages. Enchytraeid and tubificid oligochaetes reflect later succession evident in natural and older created marshes. Sediment organic matter (both combustible and below-ground plant biomass) was the environmental variable most commonly associated with densities of various macrofaunal taxa. These relationships were generally negative in the natural marshes and positive in the created marshes. Within-bay comparisons of macrofauna from natural Salicornia- vs Spartina-vegetated habitat in San Diego and Mission Bays revealed lower macrofaunal density (San Diego Bay only), proportionally fewer oligochaetes and more insects, and no differences in species richness in the Salicornia habitat. The oldest created Salicornia marsh (San Diego Bay) exhibited an assemblage intermediate in composition between those of the natural Salicornia- and Spartina-vegetated marshes. These results suggest: (a) faunal recovery following Salicornia marsh creation can require 10 or more years, (b) high macrofaunal variability among bays requires marsh creation reference site selection from within the same bay, and (c) Spartina-based research should not be used for Salicornia marsh management decisions. (C) 1999 Academic Press.

Tegner, MJ, Levin LA.  1983.  Spiny lobsters and sea urchins: Analysis of a predator-prey interaction. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 73:125-150.   10.1016/0022-0981(83)90079-5   AbstractWebsite

Spiny lobsters, Panulirus interruptus (Randall), are important predators of two species of sea urchins, Strongylocentrotus franciscanus (A. Agassiz) and S. purpuratus (Stimpson), which are major herbivores in southern California kelp forest communities. Aquarium experiments indicate that spiny lobsters strongly prefer S. purpuratus over S. franciscanus of comparable test diameter, probably accounting for the higher number of S. purpuratus mortalities observed in the field. Juvenile S. franciscanus (< 60 mm test diameter, TD) are preferred over larger conspecifics, but the smallest S. franciscanus (< 30 mm TD) are protected by association with the adult urchin spine canopy. Mid-sized S. franciscanus too large to fit under the spine canopy are subject to intense predation. All sizes of P. interruptus tested showed a notable reluctance to attack large S. franciscanus (> 90 mm TD) when offered a range of sizes, although the larger lobsters are capable of handling the largest urchins. Relative movement, spine length, test thickness, and gonad weights of sea urchins were examined to evaluate the factors affecting the lobsters' choice of prey, and behavioral responses to lobsters were assessed to determine urchin availability to these predators. The handling problems associated with the long spines of larger S. franciscanus appear to be the major considerations in prey choice despite the much greater potential energy gain from these urchins. Thus predation by spiny lobsters appears to be sufficient to explain the bimodal size-frequency distribution typical of S. franciscanus populations in areas where these predators are common. Heavy fishing pressure on spiny lobsters during this century probably resulted in the release of sea urchin populations and contributed to episodes of destructive urchin grazing observed in the 1950's and subsequent years.

Tegner, MJ, Levin LA.  1982.  Do sea urchins and abalones compete in California kelp forest communities? Echinoderms, proceedings of the International Conference, Tampa Bay. ( Lawrence JM, Ed.).:265-271., RotterdamSalem, NH: A.A. Balkema ;Distributed in USA & Canada by MBS Abstract
Thistle, D, Levin LA, Gooday AJ, Pfannkuche O, Lambshead PJD.  1999.  Physical reworking by near-bottom flow alters the metazoan meiofauna of Fieberling Guyot (northeast Pacific). Deep-Sea Research Part I-Oceanographic Research Papers. 46:2041-2052.   10.1016/s0967-0637(99)00040-0   AbstractWebsite

Although much of the deep sea is physically tranquil, some regions experience near-bottom flows that rework the surficial sediment. During periods of physical reworking, animals in the reworked layer risk being suspended, which can have both positive and negative effects. Reworking can also change the sediment in ecologically important ways, so the fauna of reworked sites should differ from that of quiescent locations. We combined data from two reworked, bathyal sites on the summit of Fieberling Guyot (32 degrees 27.631'N, 127 degrees 49.489'W; 32 degrees 27.581'N, 127 degrees 47.839'W) and compared the results with those of more tranquil sites. We tested for differences in the following parameters, which seemed likely to be sensitive to the direct or indirect effects of reworking: (1) the vertical distribution of the meiofauna in the sea bed, (2) the relative abundance of surface-living harpacticoids, (3) the proportion of the fauna consisting of interstitial harpacticoids, (4) the ratio of harpacticoids to nematodes. We found that the vertical distributions of harpacticoid copepods, ostracods, and kinorhynchs were deeper on Fieberling. In addition, the relative abundance of surface-living harpacticoids was less, the proportion of interstitial harpacticoids was greater, and the ratio of harpacticoids to nematodes was greater on Fieberling. These differences between Fieberling and the comparison sites suggest that physical reworking affects deep-sea meiofauna and indicate the nature of some of the effects. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. AII rights reserved.

Thistle, D, Levin LA.  1998.  The effect of experimentally increased near-bottom flow on metazoan meiofauna at a deep-sea site, with comparison data on macrofauna. Deep-Sea Research Part I-Oceanographic Research Papers. 45:625-+.   10.1016/s0967-0637(97)00101-5   AbstractWebsite

It has been argued that strong near-bottom hows affect macrofauna and meiofauna in the deep sea, but the evidence comes largely from studies that compared sites separated geographically by hundreds to thousands of kilometers and in depth by hundreds of meters. In this paper, the results of the first experimental investigation of the effects of strong near-bottom flow on deep-sea metazoan meiofauna are presented. At a site (32 degrees 27.581' N, 127 degrees 47.839' W) at 583 m depth on the Fieberling Guyot summit plain, the submersible Alvin emplaced weirs designed to increase the near-bottom flow locally. After 6.5 weeks, sediments in the weirs and unmanipulated locations in the vicinity were sampled. The abundances of nematodes, harpacticoid copepods, ostracods, and kinorhynchs, considered collectively and as individual taxa, were significantly lower in the weir samples than in the background samples. Parallel responses were observed in total macrofaunal and mollusk abundances. Proportional declines in kinorhynchs and mollusks were observed as well. These results suggest that strong near-bottom flow can reduce the abundance of meiofauna and macrofauna in the deep sea and alter assemblage composition. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Thornhill, DJ, Struck TH, Ebbe B, Lee RW, Mendoza GF, Levin LA, Halanych KM.  2012.  Adaptive radiation in extremophilic Dorvilleidae (Annelida): diversification of a single colonizer or multiple independent lineages? Ecology and Evolution. 2:1958-1970.   10.1002/ece3.314   AbstractWebsite

Metazoan inhabitants of extreme environments typically evolved from forms found in less extreme habitats. Understanding the prevalence with which animals move into and ultimately thrive in extreme environments is critical to elucidating how complex life adapts to extreme conditions. Methane seep sediments along the Oregon and California margins have low oxygen and very high hydrogen sulfide levels, rendering them inhospitable to many life forms. Nonetheless, several closely related lineages of dorvilleid annelids, including members of Ophryotrocha, Parougia, and Exallopus, thrive at these sites in association with bacterial mats and vesicomyid clam beds. These organisms are ideal for examining adaptive radiations in extreme environments. Did dorvilleid annelids invade these extreme environments once and then diversify? Alternatively, did multiple independent lineages adapt to seep conditions? To address these questions, we examined the evolutionary history of methane-seep dorvilleids using 16S and Cyt b genes in an ecological context. Our results indicate that dorvilleids invaded these extreme habitats at least four times, implying preadaptation to life at seeps. Additionally, we recovered considerably more dorvilleid diversity than is currently recognized. A total of 3 major clades (designated "Ophryotrocha,""Mixed Genera" and "Parougia") and 12 terminal lineages or species were encountered. Two of these lineages represented a known species, Parougia oregonensis, whereas the remaining 10 lineages were newly discovered species. Certain lineages exhibited affinity to geography, habitat, sediment depth, and/or diet, suggesting that dorvilleids at methane seeps radiated via specialization and resource partitioning.

Thorrold, SR, Zacherl DC, Levin LA.  2007.  Population connectivity and larval dispersal using geochemical signatures in calcified structures. Oceanography. 20:80-89.   AbstractWebsite

The importance of larval dispersal to the population dynamics and biogeography of marine organisms has been recognized for almost a century (Hjort, 1914; Thorson, 1950). More recently, theoretical studies have highlighted the role that connectivity may play in determining the resilience of marine populations (Hastings and Botsford, 2006). Effective spatial management of marine capture fisheries, including the design of marine reserve networks, also requires an understanding of population connectivity (Sale et al., 2005). However, remarkably few empirical estimates of larval dispersal or population connectivity in ocean environments exist.

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.

Thurber, AR, Kroger K, Neira C, Wiklund H, Levin LA.  2010.  Stable isotope signatures and methane use by New Zealand cold seep benthos. Marine Geology. 272:260-269.   10.1016/j.margeo.2009.06.001   AbstractWebsite

The carbon isotopic composition of seep faunal tissue represents a time-integrated view of the interaction between biology and the biogeochemical gradients within the environment. Here we provide an initial description of carbon and nitrogen stable isotope signatures of dominant symbiont-bearing megafauna and heterotrophic mega- and macrofauna from 10 methane-seep sites on the continental margin of the North Island of New Zealand (662-1201 m water depth). Isotopic signatures suggest that sulfide oxidation supports symbiont-bearing taxa including solemyid and vesicomyid bivalves, and methanotrophic symbionts are present in the seep mussel Bathymodiolus sp Multiple species of Frenulata (Siboglinidae) are present and have a range of isotopic values that are indicative of both thiotroph- and methanotroph-based nutrition. Isotopic composition of the tubeworm Lamellibrachia sp. varied by 23 3 parts per thousand among individuals although there was no consistent difference among sites Variation in methane use by heterotrophic fauna appears to reflect the availability of hard vs. soft substrate, macrofauna on hard substrates had high delta(13)C signatures, reflecting consumption of photosynthetic-derived organic matter Two unique, biotic assemblages were discovered to be fueled largely by methane: a hard-substrate, multi-phyla sponge-associated community (inhabiting the sponge Pseudosuberites sp) and a soft-sediment assemblage dominated by ampharetid polychaetes Isotope signatures yield estimates of 38-100% and 6-100% methane-derived carbon in sponge associates and ampharetid-bed macrofauna. respectively. These estimates are comparable to those made for deeper methane seeps at the Florida Escarpment (3290 m) and Kodiak. Alaska seeps (4445 m) The overall high use of methane as a carbon source by both symbiont-bearing and heterotrophic fauna suggests that New Zealand methane seeps are an ideal model system to study the interaction among metazoans, bacteria, archaea, and their resulting effect on methane cycles. (C) 2009 Elsevier B V All rights reserved

Thurber, AR, Levin LA, Orphan VJ, Marlow JJ.  2012.  Archaea in metazoan diets: implications for food webs and biogeochemical cycling. ISME Journal. 6:1602-1612.   10.1038/ismej.2012.16   AbstractWebsite

Although the importance of trophic linkages, including 'top-down forcing', on energy flow and ecosystem productivity is recognized, the influence of metazoan grazing on Archaea and the biogeochemical processes that they mediate is unknown. Here, we test if: (1) Archaea provide a food source sufficient to allow metazoan fauna to complete their life cycle; (2) neutral lipid biomarkers (including crocetane) can be used to identify Archaea consumers; and (3) archaeal aggregates are a dietary source for methane seep metazoans. In the laboratory, we demonstrated that a dorvilleid polychaete, Ophryotrocha labronica, can complete its life cycle on two strains of Euryarchaeota with the same growth rate as when fed bacterial and eukaryotic food. Archaea were therefore confirmed as a digestible and nutritious food source sufficient to sustain metazoan populations. Both strains of Euryarchaeota used as food sources had unique lipids that were not incorporated into O. labronica tissues. At methane seeps, sulfate-reducing bacteria that form aggregations and live syntrophically with anaerobic-methane oxidizing Archaea contain isotopically and structurally unique fatty acids (FAs). These biomarkers were incorporated into tissues of an endolithofaunal dorvilleid polychaete species from Costa Rica (mean bulk delta C-13 = -92 +/- 4 parts per thousand; polar lipids -116 parts per thousand) documenting consumption of archaeal-bacterial aggregates. FA composition of additional soft-sediment methane seep species from Oregon and California provided evidence that consumption of archaeal-bacterial aggregates is widespread at methane seeps. This work is the first to show that Archaea are consumed by heterotrophic metazoans, a trophic process we coin as 'archivory'. The ISME Journal (2012) 6, 1602-1612; doi:10.1038/ismej.2012.16; published online 8 March 2012