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Gallo, ND, Cameron J, Hardy K, Fryer P, Bartlett DH, Levin LA.  2015.  Submersible- and lander-observed community patterns in the Mariana and New Britain trenches: Influence of productivity and depth on epibenthic and scavenging communities. Deep-Sea Research Part I-Oceanographic Research Papers. 99:119-133.   10.1016/j.dsr.2014.12.012   AbstractWebsite

Deep-sea trenches remain one of the least explored ocean ecosystems due to the unique challenges of sampling at great depths. Five submersible dives conducted using the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible generated video of undisturbed deep-sea communities at bathyal (994 m), abyssal (3755 m), and hadal (8228 m) depths in the New Britain Trench, bathyal depths near the Ulithi atoll (1192 m), and hadal depths in the Mariana Trench Challenger Deep (10908 m). The New Britain Trench is overlain by waters with higher net primary productivity (similar to 3-fold) than the Mariana Trench and nearby Ulithi, and receives substantially more allochthonous input from terrestrial sources, based on the presence of terrestrial debris in submersible video footage. Comparisons between trenches addressed how differences in productivity regime influence benthic and demersal deep-sea community structure. In addition, the scavenger community was studied using paired lander deployments to the New Britain (8233 m) and Mariana (10918 m) trenches. Differences in allochthonous input were reflected in epibenthic community abundance, biodiversity, and lifestyle representation. More productive locations were characterized by higher faunal abundances (similar to 2-fold) at both bathyal and hadal depths. In contrast, biodiversity trends showed a unimodal pattern with more food-rich areas exhibiting reduced bathyal diversity and elevated hadal diversity. Hadal scavenging communities exhibited similar higher abundance but also similar to 3-fold higher species richness in the more food-rich New Britain Trench compared to the Mariana Trench. High species- and phylum-level diversity observed in the New Britain Trench suggest that trench environments may foster higher megafaunal biodiversity than surrounding abyssal depths if food is not limiting. However, the absence of fish at our hadal sites suggests that certain groups do have physiological depth limits. Submersible video footage allowed novel in situ observation of holothurian orientation, jellyfish feeding behavior as well as lifestyle preferences for substrate, seafloor and overlying water. This study documents previously unreported species in the New Britain Trench, including an ulmariid scyphozoan (8233 m) and an acrocirrid polychaete (994 m), and reports the first observation of an abundant population of elpidiid holothurians in the Mariana Trench (10908 m). It also provides the first megafaunal community analysis of the world's deepest epibenthic community in the Mariana Trench Challenger Deep, which was composed of elpidiid holothurians, amphipods, and xenophyophores. (C) 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Maloney, JM, Grupe BM, Pasulka AL, Dawson KS, Case DH, Frieder CA, Levin LA, Driscoll NW.  2015.  Transpressional segment boundaries in strike-slip fault systems offshore southern California: Implications for fluid expulsion and cold seep habitats. Geophysical Research Letters. 42:4080-4088.   10.1002/2015gl063778   AbstractWebsite

The importance of tectonics and fluid flow in controlling cold seep habitats has long been appreciated at convergent margins but remains poorly understood in strike-slip systems. Here we present geophysical, geochemical, and biological data from an active methane seep offshore from Del Mar, California, in the inner California borderlands (ICB). The location of this seep appears controlled by localized transpression associated with a step in the San Diego Trough fault zone and provides an opportunity to examine the interplay between fluid expulsion and restraining step overs along strike-slip fault systems. These segment boundaries may have important controls on seep locations in the ICB and other margins characterized by strike-slip faulting (e.g., Greece, Sea of Marmara, and Caribbean). The strike-slip fault systems offshore southern California appear to have a limited distribution of seep sites compared to a wider distribution at convergent plate boundaries, which may influence seep habitat diversity and connectivity.

Levin, LA, Dayton PK.  2009.  Ecological theory and continental margins: where shallow meets deep. Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 24:606-617.   10.1016/j.tree.2009.04.012   AbstractWebsite

Continental margins, where land becomes ocean and plunges to the deep sea, provide valuable food and energy resources, and perform essential functions such as carbon burial and nutrient cycling. They exhibit remarkably high species and habitat diversity, but this is threatened by our increasing reliance on the resources that margins provide, and by warming, expanding hypoxia and acidification associated with climate change. Continental margin ecosystems, with environments, constituents and processes that differ from those in shallow water, demand a new focus, in which ecological theory and experimental methods are brought to bear on management and conservation practices. Concepts of disturbance, diversity-function relationships, top-down versus bottom-up control, facilitation and meta-dynamics offer a framework for studying fundamental processes and understanding future change.

Blair, NE, Levin LA, Demaster DJ, Plaia G.  1996.  The short-term fate of fresh algal carbon in continental slope sediments. Limnology and Oceanography. 41:1208-1219. AbstractWebsite

Emplacement of a tracer mixture containing C-13-labeled green algae on the sea floor of the continental slope offshore of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, elicited a rapid response over 1.5 d from the dense benthic community. Certain deposit-feeding annelids (e.g. Scalibregma inflatum and Aricidea quadrilobata) became heavily labeled with C-13 as a result Of ingestion of the algae. C-13-labeled organic matter was transported to a depth of at least 4-5 cm into the seabed during the 1.5-d period, presumably as a consequence of a feeding-associated activity. Nonlocal transport produced subsurface peaks in organic C-13 at 2-3 cm. Dissolved inorganic C-13, produced by the oxidation of the labeled algae, penetrated to 10-cm depth. The transport of highly reactive organic matter from the sediment surface at initial velocities greater than or equal to 3 cm d(-1) is expected to be an important control of subsurface benthic processes in slope environments characterized by abundant macrofaunal populations. Anaerobic processes, which are enhanced on the Cape Hatteras slope relative to adjacent areas, may be promoted by the rapid injection of reactive material into subsurface sediments. The transport, in turn, is a consequence of the dense infaunal populations that are supported by the rapid deposition of organic carbon in this region.