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Whitcraft, CR, Levin LA, Talley D, Crooks JA.  2008.  Utilization of invasive tamarisk by salt marsh consumers. Oecologia. 158:259-272.   10.1007/s00442-008-1144-5   AbstractWebsite

Plant invasions of coastal wetlands are rapidly changing the structure and function of these systems globally. Alteration of litter dynamics represents one of the fundamental impacts of an invasive plant on salt marsh ecosystems. Tamarisk species (Tamarix spp.), which extensively invade terrestrial and riparian habitats, have been demonstrated to enter food webs in these ecosystems. However, the trophic impacts of the relatively new invasion of tamarisk into marine ecosystem have not been assessed. We evaluated the trophic consequences of invasion by tamarisk for detrital food chains in the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve salt marsh using litter dynamics techniques and stable isotope enrichment experiments. The observations of a short residence time for tamarisk combined with relatively low C:N values indicate that tamarisk is a relatively available and labile food source. With an isotopic ((15)N) enrichment of tamarisk, we demonstrated that numerous macroinvertebrate taxonomic and trophic groups, both within and on the sediment, utilized (15)N derived from labeled tamarisk detritus. Infaunal invertebrate species that took up no or limited (15)N from labeled tamarisk (A. californica, enchytraeid oligochaetes, coleoptera larvae) occurred in lower abundance in the tamarisk-invaded environment. In contrast, species that utilized significant (15)N from the labeled tamarisk, such as psychodid insects, an exotic amphipod, and an oniscid isopod, either did not change or occurred in higher abundance. Our research supports the hypothesis that invasive species can alter the trophic structure of an environment through addition of detritus and can also potentially impact higher trophic levels by shifting dominance within the invertebrate community to species not widely consumed.

Whitcraft, CR, Levin LA.  2007.  Regulation of benthic algal and animal communities by salt marsh plants: Impact of shading. Ecology. 88:904-917.   10.1890/05-2074   AbstractWebsite

Plant cover is a fundamental feature of many coastal marine and terrestrial systems and controls the structure of associated animal communities. Both natural and human-mediated changes in plant cover influence abiotic sediment properties and thus have cascading impacts on the biotic community. Using clipping ( structural) and light ( shading) manipulations in two salt marsh vegetation zones ( one dominated by Spartina foliosa and one by Salicornia virginica), we tested whether these plant species exert influence on abiotic environmental factors and examined the mechanisms by which these changes regulate the biotic community. In an unshaded ( plant and shade removal) treatment, marsh soils exhibited harsher physical properties, a microalgal community composition shift toward increased diatom dominance, and altered macrofaunal community composition with lower species richness, a larger proportion of insect larvae, and a smaller proportion of annelids, crustaceans, and oligochaetes compared to shaded ( plant removal, shade mimic) and control treatment plots. Overall, the shaded treatment plots were similar to the controls. Plant cover removal also resulted in parallel shifts in microalgal and macrofaunal isotopic signatures of the most dynamic species. This suggests that animal responses are seen mainly among microalgae grazers and may be mediated by plant modi. cation of microalgae. Results of these experiments demonstrate how light reduction by the vascular plant canopy can control salt marsh sediment communities in an arid climate. This research facilitates understanding of sequential consequences of changing salt marsh plant cover associated with climate or sea level change, habitat degradation, marsh restoration, or plant invasion.

Wishner, K, Levin L, Gowing M, Mullineaux L.  1990.  Involvement of the oxygen minimum in benthic zonation on a deep seamount. Nature. 346:57-59.   10.1038/346057a0   AbstractWebsite

Low oxygen concentration in the seawater column reduces the abundance of midwater consumer populations1,2, which can enhance the supply of undegraded organic matter reaching the benthos. Low oxygen concentration in the water at the bottom can exclude most tolerant species from benthic habitats3–5. The interception of the seafloor with pronounced oxygen-minimum zones can produce steep gradients in benthic assemblages. We now present evidence for this interaction on Volcano 7, an oceanic seamount penetrating the oxygen-minimum zone in the eastern tropical Pacific. Submersible observations revealed only a few benthic species at the summit (730–750 m), where oxygen levels were lowest. Just tens of metres below, megafaunal and macrofaunal abundances were extremely high. Sediment organic carbon, a benthic food indicator, was unusually high. We hypothesize that a dynamic low-oxygen interface physiologically restricts benthos on the upper summit, that the enriched sediment is a result of reduced consumption and degradation of sinking material in the oxygen-minimum zone, and that this high benthic food level supports the unusually high benthic abundance. Sharp benthic zonation associated with oxygen concentrations may also be preserved in the palaeoceanographic record4,6.

Wishner, KF, Ashjian CJ, Gelfman C, Gowing MM, Kann L, Levin LA, Mullineaux LS, Saltzman J.  1995.  Pelagic and benthic ecology of the lower interface of the Eastern Tropical Pacific oxygen minimum zone. Deep-Sea Research Part I-Oceanographic Research Papers. 42:93-115.   10.1016/0967-0637(94)00021-j   AbstractWebsite

The distributions of pelagic and benthic fauna were examined in relation to the lower boundary of the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) on and near Volcano 7, a seamount that penetrates this feature in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. Although the broad, pronounced OMZ in this region is an effective barrier for most zooplankton, zooplankton abundances, zooplankton feeding rates, and ambient suspended particulate organic carbon (POC) peaked sharply in the lower OMZ (about 740-800 m), in association with the minimum oxygen concentration and the increasing oxygen levels just below it. Zooplankton in the lower OMZ were also larger in size, and the pelagic community included some very abundant, possibly opportunistic, species. Elevated POC and scatter in the light transmission data suggested the existence of a thin, particle-rich, and carbon-rich pelagic layer at the base of the OMZ. Gut contents of planktonic detritivores implied opportunistic ingestion of bacterial aggregates, possibly from this layer. Benthic megafaunal abundances on the seamount, which extended up to 730 m, peaked at about 800 m. There was a consistent vertical progression in the depth of first occurrence of different megafaunal taxa in this depth range, similar to intertidal zonation. Although the vertical gradients of temperature, salinity, and oxygen were gradual at the lower OMZ interface (in contrast to the upper OMZ interface at the thermocline), temporal variability in oxygen levels due to internal wave-induced vertical excursions of the OMZ may produce the distinct zonation in the benthic fauna. The characteristics of the lower OMZ interface result from biological interactions with the chemical and organic matter gradients of the OMZ. Most zooplankton are probably excluded physiologically from pronounced OMZs. The zooplankton abundance peak at the lower interface of the OMZ occurs where oxygen becomes sufficiently high to permit the zooplankton to utilize the high concentrations of organic particles that have descended through the OMZ relatively unaltered because of low metazoan abundance. A similar scenario applies to megabenthic distributions. Plankton layers and a potential short food chain (bacteria to zooplankton) at OMZ interfaces suggest intense utilization and modification of organic material, localized within a thin midwater depth zone. This could be a potentially significant filter for organic material sinking to the deep-sea floor.

Woulds, C, Andersson JH, Cowie GL, Middelburg JJ, Levin LA.  2009.  The short-term fate of organic carbon in marine sediments: Comparing the Pakistan margin to other regions. Deep Sea Research (Part II, Topical Studies in Oceanography). 56:393-402., United Kingdom: Elsevier BV   10.1016/j.dsr2.2008.10.008   AbstractWebsite

Pulse-chase experiments with isotopically labelled phytodetritus conducted across the Pakistan margin reveal that the impact of biological activities on benthic C-cycling varies markedly among sites exhibiting different seafloor conditions. In this study, patterns of biological C-processing across the Pakistan margin oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) are compared with those observed in previous tracer studies. Variations in site environmental conditions are proposed to explain the considerable variations in C-processing patterns among this and previous studies. Three categories of C-processing pattern are identified: (1) respiration dominated, where respiration accounts for >75% of biological C-processing, and uptake by metazoan macrofauna, foraminifera and bacteria are relatively minor processes. These sites tend to show several (although not necessarily all) of the properties of being cold and deep, and having low inputs of organic carbon to the sediment and relatively low-biomass metazoan macrofaunal communities; (2) active faunal uptake, where respiration accounts for <75%, and metazoan macrofaunal, foraminiferal and bacterial uptake each account for 10-25% of biological C-processing. This type is further split into metazoan macrofaunal- and foraminiferal-dominated situations, dictated by oxygen availability; and (3) metazoan macrofaunal uptake dominated, characterised by metazoan macrofaunal uptake accounting for ~50% of biological C-processing, due to unusually large biomasses of the phytodetritus-consuming animals. Total respiration rates (of added C) on the Pakistan margin fell within the range of rates measured elsewhere in the deep sea (} .1-2.8mgCm super(-) super(2)h super(-) super(1)), and seem to be dominantly controlled by seafloor temperature. Rates of metazoan macrofaunal uptake of organic matter (OM) on the Pakistan margin are larger than those in most other studies, and this is attributed to the large and active metazoan macrofaunal communities in the lower OMZ, characteristic of OMZ boundaries. Finally, biological mixing of Pakistan margin sediments was reduced compared to that observed in comparable tracer studies on other margins. This probably reflects faunal feeding and burrowing strategies consistent with low oxygen concentrations and a relatively abundant supply of sedimentary OM.

Woulds, C, Cowie GL, Levin LA, Andersson JH, Middelburg JJ, Vandewiele S, Lamont PA, Larkin KE, Gooday AJ, Schumacher S, Whitcraft C, Jeffreys RM, Schwartz M.  2007.  Oxygen as a control on seafloor biological communities and their roles in sedimentary carbon cycling. Limnology and Oceanography. 52:1698-1709.   10.4319/lo.2007.52.4.1698   AbstractWebsite

C-13 tracer experiments were conducted at sites spanning the steep oxygen, organic matter, and biological community gradients across the Arabian Sea oxygen minimum zone, in order to quantify the role that benthic fauna play in the short-term processing of organic matter (OM) and to determine how this varies among different environments. Metazoan macrofauna and macrofauna-sized foraminiferans took up as much as 56 +/- 13 mg of added C m(-2) (685 mg C m(-2) added) over 2-5 d, and at some sites this uptake was similar in magnitude to bacterial uptake and/or total respiration. Bottom-water dissolved oxygen concentrations exerted a strong control over metazoan macrofaunal OM processing. At oxygen concentrations > 7 mu mol L-1 (0.16 ml L-1), metazoan macrofauna were able to take advantage of abundant OM and to dominate OM uptake, while OM processing at O-2 concentrations of 5.0 mu mol L-1 (0.11 ml L-1) was dominated instead by (macrofaunal) foraminiferans. This led us to propose the hypothesis that oxygen controls the relative dominance of metazoan macrofauna and foraminifera in a threshold manner, with the threshold lying between 5 and 7 mu mol L-1 (0.11 to 0.16 ml L-1). Large metazoan macrofaunal biomass and high natural concentrations of OM were also associated with rapid processing of fresh OM by the benthic community. Where they were present, the polychaete Linopherus sp. and the calcareous foraminiferan Uvigerina ex gr. semiornata, dominated the uptake of OM above and below, respectively, the proposed threshold concentrations of bottom-water oxygen.