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Grupe, BM, Krach ML, Pasulka AL, Maloney JM, Levin LA, Frieder CA.  2015.  Methane seep ecosystem functions and services from a recently discovered southern California seep. Marine Ecology-an Evolutionary Perspective. 36:91-108.   10.1111/maec.12243   AbstractWebsite

The recent discovery of a methane seep with diverse microhabitats and abundant groundfish in the San Diego Trough (1020 m) off the coast of Del Mar, California raised questions about the role of seep ecosystem functions and services in relation to continental margins. We used multicorer and ROV grab samples and an ROV survey to characterize macrofaunal structure, diversity, and trophic patterns in soft sediments and authigenic carbonates; seep microhabitats and taxa observed; and the abundance and spatial patterns of fishery-relevant species. Biogenic microhabitats near the Del Mar Seep included microbially precipitated carbonate boulders, bacterial mats, vesicomyid clam beds, frenulate and ampharetid beds, vestimentiferan tubeworm clumps, and fields of Bathysiphon filiformis tubes. Macrofaunal abundance increased and mean faunal delta C-13 signatures decreased in multicorer samples nearer the seep, suggesting that chemosynthetic production enhanced animal densities outside the seep center. Polychaetes dominated sediments, and ampharetids became especially abundant near microbial mats, while gastropods, hydroids, and sponges dominated carbonate rocks. A wide range of stable isotopic signatures reflected the diversity of microhabitats, and methane-derived carbon was the most prevalent source of nutrition for several taxa, especially those associated with carbonates. Megafaunal species living near the seep included longspine thornyhead (Sebastolobus altivelis), Pacific dover sole (Microstomus pacificus), and lithodid crabs (Paralomis verrilli), which represent targets for demersal fisheries. Sebastolobus altivelis was especially abundant (6.5-8.2 fish.100 m(-2)) and appeared to aggregate near the most active seep microhabitats. The Del Mar Methane Seep, like many others along the world's continental margins, exhibits diverse ecosystem functions and enhances regional diversity. Seeps such as this one may also contribute ecosystem services if they provide habitat for fishery species, export production to support margin food webs, and serve as sinks for methane-derived carbon.

Neira, C, Levin LA, Mendoza G, Zirino A.  2014.  Alteration of benthic communities associated with copper contamination linked to boat moorings. Marine Ecology-an Evolutionary Perspective. 35:46-66.   10.1111/maec.12054   AbstractWebsite

Although copper (Cu) is an essential element for life, leaching from boat paint can cause excess environmental loading in enclosed marinas. The effects of copper contamination on benthic macrofaunal communities were examined in three San Diego Bay marinas (America's Cup, Harbor Island West and East) in Southern California, USA. The distribution of Cu concentration in sediments exhibited a clear spatial gradient, with hotspots created by the presence of boats, which in two marinas exceeded the effect range medium (ERM). Elevated sediment Cu was associated with differences in benthic assemblages, reduced species richness and enhanced dominance in America's Cup and Harbor Island West, whereas Harbor Island East did not appear to be affected. At sites without boats there were greater abundances of some amphipods such as the species Desdimelita sp., Harpinia sp., Aoroides sp., Corophium sp., Podocerus sp., bivalves such as Lyonsia californica, Musculista senhousia, Macoma sp., and polychaetes such as Diplocirrus sp. In contrast, at sites with boats, densities of Pseudopolydora paucibranchiata, Polydora nuchalis, Euchone limnicola, Exogone lourei, Tubificoides spp. were enhanced. The limited impact on Harbor Island East suggests not only lower Cu input rates and increased water flushing and mixing, but also the presence of adequate defense mechanisms that regulate availability and mitigate toxic impacts. At all three marinas, Cu in tissues of several macrobenthic species exhibited Cu bioaccumulation above levels found in the surrounding environment. The annelids Lumbrineris sp. and Tubificoides spp., and the amphipod Desdimelita sp. contained high levels of Cu, suggesting they function as Cu bioaccumulators. The spionid polychaetes Polydora nuchalis and Pseudopolydora paucibranchiata had much lower Cu concentrations than surrounding sediments, suggesting they function as Cu bioregulators. The macrobenthic invertebrates in San Diego Bay marinas that tolerate Cu pollution (e.g. P.nuchalis, P.paucibranchiata, Euchone limnicola, Typosyllis sp., Tubificoides sp.) may function as indicators of high-Cu conditions, whereas the presence of Cu-sensitive species (e.g. Podocerus sp., Aoroides sp., Harpinia sp., Macoma sp., Lyonsia californica) may indicate healthier conditions (less Cu-stressed). Parallel responses by faunas of Shelter Island Yacht Basin, also in San Diego Bay, suggest potential for development of regional Cu contamination assessment criteria, and call for functional comparisons with other marinas and coastal water bodies.

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.

Neira, C, Mendoza G, Levin LA, Zirino A, Delgadillo-Hinojosa F, Porrachia M, Deheyn DD.  2011.  Macrobenthic community response to copper in Shelter Island Yacht Basin, San Diego Bay, California. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 62:701-717.   10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.01.027   AbstractWebsite

We examined Cu contamination effects on macrobenthic communities and Cu concentration in invertebrates within Shelter Island Yacht Basin, San Diego Bay, California. Results indicate that at some sites, Cu in sediment has exceeded a threshold for "self defense" mechanisms and highlight the potential negative impacts on benthic faunal communities where Cu accumulates and persists in sediments. At sites with elevated Cu levels in sediment, macrobenthic communities were not only less diverse but also their total biomass and body size (individual biomass) were reduced compared to sites with lower Cu. Cu concentration in tissue varied between species and within the same species, reflecting differing abilities to "regulate" their body load. The spatial complexity of Cu effects in a small marina such as SIYB emphasizes that sediment-quality criteria based solely on laboratory experiments should be used with caution, as they do not necessarily reflect the condition at the community and ecosystem levels. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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.

Gooday, AJ, Bett BJ, Escobar E, Ingole B, Levin LA, Neira C, Raman AV, Sellanes J.  2010.  Habitat heterogeneity and its influence on benthic biodiversity in oxygen minimum zones. Marine Ecology-an Evolutionary Perspective. 31:125-147.   10.1111/j.1439-0485.2009.00348.x   AbstractWebsite

Oxygen minimum zones (OMZs; midwater regions with O(2) concentrations <0.5 ml l(-1)) are mid-water features that intercept continental margins at bathyal depths (100-1000 m). They are particularly well developed in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Based on analyses of data from these regions, we consider (i) how benthic habitat heterogeneity is manifested within OMZs, (ii) which aspects of this heterogeneity exert the greatest influence on alpha and beta diversity within particular OMZs and (iii) how heterogeneity associated with OMZs influences regional (gamma) diversity on continental margins. Sources of sea-floor habitat heterogeneity within OMZs include bottom-water oxygen and sulphide gradients, substratum characteristics, bacterial mats, and variations in the organic matter content of the sediment and pH. On some margins, hard grounds, formed of phosphorites, carbonates or biotic substrata, represent distinct subhabitats colonized by encrusting faunas. Most of the heterogeneity associated with OMZs, however, is created by strong sea-floor oxygen gradients, reinforced by changes in sediment characteristics and organic matter content. For the Pakistan margin, combining these parameters revealed clear environmental and faunal differences between the OMZ core and the upper and lower boundary regions. In all Pacific and Arabian Sea OMZs examined, oxygen appears to be the master driver of alpha and beta diversity in all benthic faunal groups for which data exist, as well as macrofaunal assemblage composition, particularly in the OMZ core. However, other factors, notably organic matter quantity and quality and sediment characteristics, come into play as oxygen concentrations begin to rise. The influence of OMZs on meiofaunal, macrofaunal and megafaunal regional (gamma) diversity is difficult to assess. Hypoxia is associated with a reduction in species richness in all benthic faunal groups, but there is also evidence for endemism in OMZ settings. We conclude that, on balance, OMZs probably enhance regional diversity, particularly in taxa such as Foraminifera, which are more tolerant of hypoxia than others. Over evolutionary timescales, they may promote speciation by creating strong gradients in selective pressures and barriers to gene flow.

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.

Hughes, DJ, Lamont PA, Levin LA, Packer M, Feeley K, Gage JD.  2009.  Macrofaunal communities and sediment structure across the Pakistan margin Oxygen Minimum Zone, North-East Arabian Sea. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 56:434-448.   10.1016/j.dsr2.2008.05.030   AbstractWebsite

Benthic macrofauna and sediment column features were sampled at five stations along a bathymetric transect (depths 140, 300, 940, 1200, 1850 m) through the Pakistan margin Oxygen Minimum Zone (OMZ) during the 2003 intermonsoon (March-May) and late-post-monsoon (August-October) periods. Objectives were to compare patterns with those described from other OMZs, particularly the Oman margin of the Arabian Sea, in order to assess the relative influence of bottom-water oxygenation and sediment organic content on macrofaunal standing stock and community structure. Macrofaunal density was highest at the 140-m station subject to monsoon-driven shoaling of the OMZ, but there was no elevation of density at the lower OMZ boundary (1200 m). Numbers was extremely low in the OMZ core (300 m) and were not readily explicable from the environmental data. There was no consistent depth-related trend in macrofaunal biomass. Macrofaunal densities were consistently lower than found off Oman but there was less contrast in biomass. A significant post-monsoon decline in macrofaunal density at 140 m was driven by selective loss of polychaete taxa. Polychaeta was the most abundant major taxon at all stations but did not dominate the macrofaunal community to the extent reported from Oman. Cirratulidae and Spionidae were major components of the polychaete fauna at most stations but Acrocirridae, Ampharetidae, Amphinomidae and Cossuridae were more important at 940 m. Polychaete assemblages at each station were almost completely distinct at the species level. Polychaete species richness was positively correlated with bottom-water dissolved oxygen and negatively correlated with sediment TOC, C:N ratio and total phytopigments. Community dominance showed the opposite pattern. The strongly inverse correlation between oxygen and measures of sediment organic content made it difficult to distinguish their relative effects. The strongly laminated sediments in the OMZ core contrasted with the homogeneous, heavily bioturbated sediments above and below this zone but were associated with minimal macrofaunal biomass rather than distinctive functional group composition. In general, data from the Oman margin were weak predictors of patterns seen off Pakistan, and results suggest the importance of local factors superimposed on the broader trends of macrofaunal community composition in OMZs. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Levin, LA, Whitcraft CR, Mendoza GF, Gonzalez JP, Cowie G.  2009.  Oxygen and organic matter thresholds for benthic faunal activity on the Pakistan margin oxygen minimum zone (700-1100 m). Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 56:449-471.   10.1016/j.dsr2.2008.05.032   AbstractWebsite

A transition from fully laminated to highly bioturbated sediments on continental margins is thought to derive from increased animal activity associated with increasing bottom-water oxygen concentration. We examined faunal community responses to oxygen and organic matter gradients across the lower oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) on the bathyal Pakistan margin, where sediments grade from fully laminated sediment at 700m (0.12 mLL(-1) O(2) [5 mu M]) to highly bioturbated sediment at 1100 m (0.23 mLL(-1) O(2) [10 mu M]). High-resolution sampling of the seafloor (every 50 m water depth) was conducted along a single transect during inter- and post-monsoon periods in 2003 to address (a) the existence of oxygen thresholds regulating macrofaunal abundance, composition, diversity and lifestyles, (b) the interactive effects of organic matter quantity and quality, (c) associated community effects on sediment structure, and (d) potential seasonality in these processes. Macrofaunal biomass and bioturbation depth were positively correlated with organic matter availability, which peaked at 850-950 m (3.39-3.53% Org. Q. In contrast, macrofaunal diversity (HI), dominance (RID), and burrow number exhibited threshold responses at oxygen concentrations of 0.12-0.20 mLL(-1) [5-9 mu M]), with few animals and highly laminated sediments present below this concentration and most taxa present in fully bioturbated sediments above it. The highly mobile, burrowing amphinomid polychaete Linopherus sp. exhibited almost complete dominance and high density at 750-850 m (0.12-0.14 mLL(-1) O(2) [5-6 mu M]), but despite its activity, sediment laminae remained faintly visible. Formation of permanent burrows and detritivory were dominant macrofaunal lifestyles within the OMZ, allowing laminae to persist at surprisingly high animal density and biomass. Results reflect a shift from organic matter to oxygen regulation of body size and biogenic structures following the monsoon. This study suggests that for assemblages evolving under permanent severe hypoxia, food availability remains a significant determinant of animal abundance and biogenic structure depth. Oxygen influences patterns of diversity and dominance and interacts with organic matter to generate abrupt faunal transitions on the Pakistan margin. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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.

Neira, C, Levin LA, Grosholz ED, Mendoza G.  2007.  Influence of invasive Spartina growth stages on associated macrofaunal communities. Biological Invasions. 9:975-993.   10.1007/s10530-007-9097-x   AbstractWebsite

In coastal wetlands, invasive plants often act as ecosystem engineers altering flow, light and sediments which, in turn, can affect benthic animal communities. However, the degree of influence of the engineer will vary significantly as it grows, matures and senesces, and surprisingly little is known about how the influence of an ecosystem engineer varies with ontogeny. We address this issue on the tidal flats of San Francisco Bay where hybrid Spartina (foliosa x alterniflora) invaded 30 years ago. The invasion has altered the physico-chemical properties of the sediment habitat, which we predicted should cause changes in macrofaunal community structure and function. Through mensurative and manipulative approaches we investigated the influence of different growth stages of hybrid Spartina on macrobenthos and the underlying mechanisms. Cross-elevation sampling transects were established covering 5 zones (or stages) of the invasion, running from the tidal flat (pre-invasion) to an unvegetated dieback zone. Additionally, we experimentally removed aboveground plant structure in the mature (inner) marsh to mimic the 'unvegetated areas'. Our results revealed four distinct faunal assemblages, which reflected Spartina-induced changes in the corresponding habitat properties along an elevation gradient: a pre-invaded tidal flat, a leading edge of immature invasion, a center of mature invasion, and a senescing dieback area. These stages of hybrid Spartina invasion were accompanied by a substantial reduction in macrofaunal species richness and an increase in dominance, as well as a strong shift in feeding modes, from surface microalgal feeders to subsurface detritus/Spartina feeders (mainly tubificid oligochaetes and capitellid polychaetes). Knowledge of the varying influence of plant invaders on the sediment ecosystem during different phases of invasion is critical for management of coastal wetlands.

Arntz, WE, Gallardo VA, Gutierrez D, Isla E, Levin LA, Mendo J, Neira C, Rowe GT, Tarazona J, Wolff M.  2006.  El Niño and similar perturbation effects on the benthos of the Humboldt, California, and Benguela Current upwelling ecosystems. Advances in Geosciences. 6:243-265.: European Geosciences Union, c/o E.O.S.T. 5, rue Rene Descartes Strasbourg Cedex 67084 France, [], [URL:] AbstractWebsite

To a certain degree, Eastern Boundary Current (EBC) ecosystems are similar: Cold bottom water from moderate depths, rich in nutrients, is transported to the euphotic zone by a combination of trade winds, Coriolis force and Ekman transport. The resultant high primary production fuels a rich secondary production in the upper pelagic and nearshore zones, but where O sub(2) exchange is restricted, it creates oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) at shelf and upper slope (Humboldt and Benguela Current) or slope depths (California Current). These hypoxic zones host a specifically adapted, small macro- and meiofauna together with giant sulphur bacteria that use nitrate to oxydise H sub(2)S. In all EBC, small polychaetes, large nematodes and other opportunistic benthic species have adapted to the hypoxic conditions and co-exist with sulphur bacteria, which seem to be particularly dominant off Peru and Chile. However, a massive reduction of macrobenthos occurs in the core of the OMZ. In the Humboldt Current area the OMZ ranges between <100 and about 600 m, with decreasing thickness in a poleward direction. The OMZ merges into better oxygenated zones towards the deep sea, where large cold-water mega- and macrofauna occupy a dominant role as in the nearshore strip. The Benguela Current OMZ has a similar upper limit but remains shallower. It also hosts giant sulphur bacteria but little is known about the benthic fauna. However, sulphur eruptions and intense hypoxia might preclude the coexistence of significant mega- und macrobenthos. Conversely, off North America the upper limit of the OMZ is considerably deeper (e.g., 500-600 m off California and Oregon), and the lower boundary may exceed 1000m. The properties described are valid for very cold and cold (La Nina and "normal") ENSO conditions with effective upwelling of nutrient-rich bottom water. During warm (El Nino) episodes, warm water masses of low oxygen concentration from oceanic and equatorial regions enter the upwelling zones, bringing a variety of (sub)tropical immigrants. The autochthonous benthic fauna emigrates to deeper water or poleward, or suffers mortality. However, some local macrofaunal species experience important population proliferations, presumably due to improved oxygenation (in the southern hemisphere), higher temperature tolerance, reduced competition or the capability to use different food. Both these negative and positive effects of el Nino influence local artisanal fisheries and the livelihood of coastal populations. In the Humboldt Current system the hypoxic seafloor at outer shelf depths receives important flushing from the equatorial zone, causing havoc on the sulphur bacteria mats and immediate recolonisation of the sediments by mega- and macrofauna. Conversely, off California, the intruding equatorial water masses appear to have lower oxygen than ambient waters, and may cause oxygen deficiency at upper slope depths. Effects of this change have not been studied in detail, although shrimp and other taxa appear to alter their distribution on the continental margin. Other properties and reactions of the two Pacific EBC benthic ecosystems to el Nino seem to differ, too, as does the overall impact of major episodes (e.g., 1982/1983(1984) vs. 1997/1998). The relation of the "Benguela Nino" to ENSO seems unclear although many Pacific- Atlantic ocean and atmosphere teleconnections have been described. Warm, low- oxygen equatorial water seems to be transported into the upwelling area by similar mechanisms as in the Pacific, but most major impacts on the eukaryotic biota obviously come from other, independent perturbations such as an extreme eutrophication of the sediments ensuing in sulphidic eruptions and toxic algal blooms. Similarities and differences of the Humboldt and California Current benthic ecosystems are discussed with particular reference to ENSO impacts since 1972/73. Where there are data available, the authors include the Benguela Current ecosystem as another important, non-Pacific EBC, which also suffers from the effects of hypoxia.

Robinson, CA, Bernhard JM, Levin LA, Mendoza GF, Blanks JK.  2004.  Surficial hydrocarbon seep infauna from the Blake Ridge (Atlantic Ocean, 2150 m) and the Gulf of Mexico (690-2240 m). Marine Ecology-Pubblicazioni Della Stazione Zoologica Di Napoli I. 25:313-336.   10.1111/j.1439-0485.2004.00034.x   AbstractWebsite

Infauna, including foraminifera and metazoans, were enumerated and identified from five types of seep habitats and two adjacent non-seep habitats. Collections were made with the deep submergence research vessel 'Alvin' from three areas of active seepage in the Gulf of Mexico (Alaminos Canyon [2220 m], Atwater Canyon [1930 m], and Green Canyon lease block 272 [700 m]) and on the Blake Ridge Diapir [2250 m], which is located off the southeastern coast of the United States. The seep habitats sampled included four types of microbial mats (Beggiatoa, Thioploca, thin and thick Arcobacter) and the periphery of a large mussel bed. Sediments under large rhizopod protists, xenophyophores, were sampled adjacent to the mussel bed periphery. A non-seep site, which was >1 km away from active seeps, was also sampled for comparison. Densities of most taxa were higher in the Gulf of Mexico seeps than in Blake Ridge samples, largely because densities in the thick microbial mats of Blake Ridge were significantly lower. Diversity was higher in the Thioploca mats compared to other microbial-mat types. Within an ocean basin (i.e., Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico) we did not observe significant differences in meiofaunal or macrofaunal composition in Beggiatoa versus Thioploca mats or thin versus thick Arcobacter mats. Foraminifera represented up to 16% of the seep community, a proportion that is comparable to their contribution at adjacent non-seep communities. In general, the observed densities and taxonomic composition of seep sites at the genus level was consistent with previous observations from seeps (e.g., the foraminifers Bolivina and Fursenkoina, the dorvilleid polychaete Ophryotrocha).

Levin, L, Gutierrez D, Rathburn A, Neira C, Sellanes J, Munoz P, Gallardo V, Salamanca M.  2002.  Benthic processes on the Peru margin: a transect across the oxygen minimum zone during the 1997-98 El Nino. Progress in Oceanography. 53:1-27.   10.1016/s0079-6611(02)00022-8   AbstractWebsite

Oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) are widespread features in the most productive regions of the world ocean. A holistic view of benthic responses to OMZ conditions will improve our ability to predict ecosystem-level consequences of climatic trends that influence oxygen availability, such as global warming or ENSO-related events. Four stations off Callao, Peru (-12'S, Station A, 305 m; Station B, 562 m; Station C, 830 nu and Station D, 1210 m) were sampled to examine the influence of the low bottom-water oxygen concentration and high organic-matter availability within the OMZ (O(2) < 0.5 ml L(-1)) on sediments, benthic communities, and bioturbation. Sampling took place during early January 1998, an intense El Ni (n) over tildeo period associated with higher-than-normal levels of O(2) on the shelf and upper slope. Peru slope sediments were highly heterogeneous. Sediment total organic carbon content exceeded 16%, lamination was present below 6 cm depth, and filamentous sulfur bacteria (Thioploca spp.) were present at Station A, (305 m, 0, < 0.02 ml L(-1)). Deeper sites contained phosphorite crusts or pellets and exhibited greater bottom-water oxygenation and lower content and quality of organic matter. X-radiographs and (210)Pb and (234)Th profiles suggested the dominance of lateral transport and bioturbation over pelagic sedimentation at the mid- and lower slope sites. Macrofauna, metazoan meiofauna and foraminifera exhibited coherence of density patterns across stations, with maximal densities (and for macrofauna, reduced diversity) at Station A, where bottom-water oxygen concentration was lowest and sediment labile organic matter content (LOC: sum of protein, carbohydrate and lipid carbon) was greatest. Metazoan and protozoan meiofaunal densities were positively correlated with sediment LOC. The taxa most tolerant of nearly anoxic, organic-rich conditions within the Peru OMZ were calcareous foraminifera, nematodes and gutless phallodrilinid (symbiont-bearing) oligochaetes. Agglutinated foraminifera, harpacticoid copepods, polychaetes and many other macrofaunal taxa increased in relative abundance below the OMZ. During the study (midpoint of the 1997-98 El Ni (n) over tildeo), the upper OMZ boundary exhibited a significant deepening (to 190 m) relative to 'normal', non-El Ni (n) over tildeo conditions (< 100 m), possibly causing a mild, transient oxygenation over the upper slope (200-300 m) and reduction of the organic particle flux to the seabed. Future sampling may determine whether the Peru margin system exhibits dynamic responses to changing ENSO-related conditions. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Levin, LA, James DW, Martin CM, Rathburn AE, Harris LH, Michener RH.  2000.  Do methane seeps support distinct macrofaunal assemblages? Observations on community structure and nutrition from the northern California slope and shelf Marine Ecology-Progress Series. 208:21-39.   10.3354/meps208021   AbstractWebsite

Although the conspicuous epifauna of reducing environments are known to exhibit strong morphological, physiological, and nutritional adaptations for life in these habitats, it is less clear whether infaunal organisms do so as well. We examined metazoan macrofauna from methane-seep sediments on the northern California slope (500 to 525 m depth) and from seep and non-seep sediments at 3 locations on the shelf (31 to 53 m depth) to determine whether the community structure and nutritional sources of seep infauna were distinct from those in non-seep, margin sediments. Seep macrofauna consisted mainly of normal slope and shelf species found in productive settings. Several macrofaunal taxa, such as Capitella sp., Diastylopsis dawsoni, and Synidotea angulata, exhibited a preference for seeps. Other taxa, such as the amphipods Rhepoxynius abronius and R, daboius, avoided seeps. Species richness of shelf macrofauna, evaluated by rarefaction and diversity indices (H' and J'), generally did not differ in seep and non-seep sediments. Similarly, stable isotopic composition (delta C-13, delta N-15) Of active seep and non-seep macrofauna did not differ at the 3 shelf sites. Stable isotopic analyses of calcareous material confirmed the presence of methane-influenced pore waters at the slope study site. At one slope clam bed, macrofaunal delta C-13 signatures were lower and delta N-15 values were higher than at another clam bed, inactive slope sediments and shelf sites. However, only 1 of 14 macrofaunal taxa (a dorvilleid polychaete) exhibited isotopic evidence of chemosynthetic nutritional sources. At these sites, seep influence on the ecology of continental margin infauna appears spatially limited and relatively subtle. At their current level of activity, the northern California slope and shelf seeps appear to function as ephemeral, small-scale disturbances that are not sufficiently persistent to allow chemosynthesis-based trophic specialization by most infauna. Rather, we suggest that many of the infauna inhabiting these seep sediments are shelf and slope species preadapted to organic-rich, reducing environments.

Levin, LA, Blair NE, Martin CM, Demaster DJ, Plaia G, Thomas CJ.  1999.  Macrofaunal processing of phytodetritus at two sites on the Carolina margin: in situ experiments using (13)C-labeled diatoms. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. 182:37-54.   10.3354/meps182037   AbstractWebsite

Tracer experiments using (13)C-labeled diatoms Thalassiosira pseudonana were carried out at two 850 m sites (I off Cape Fear and III off Cape Hatteras) on the North Carolina, USA, slope to examine patterns of macrofaunal consumption of fresh phytodetritus. Experiments examined the influence of taxon, feeding mode, body size and vertical position within the sediment column on access to surficial organic matter. delta(13)C measurements were made on macrofaunal metazoans and agglutinating protozoans from background sediments and from sediment plots in which (13)C-labeled diatoms were deposited and then sampled 0.3 h, 1 to 1.5 d, 3 mo and 14 mo later. Significant between-site differences were observed in background delta(13)C signatures of sediments, metazoans, and large, agglutinating protozoans, with values 2 to 3 parts per thousand lower at Site III than at Site I. Background delta(13)C signatures also varied as a function of taxon and of vertical position in the sediment column at Site III. The background delta(13)C value of carnivores was higher than that of surface-deposit feeders among Site I annelids, but no annelid feeding-group differences were observed at Site III. delta(13)C data from short-term (1 to 1.5 d) experiments revealed rapid diatom ingestion, primarily by agglutinated protozoans and annelids at Site I and mainly by annelids at Site III. Selective feeding on diatoms was exhibited by paraonid polychaetes, especially Aricidea spp. Exceptionally high uptake and retention of diatom C also was observed in the maldanid Praxillella sp., the nereid Ceratocephale sp. and several other surface-deposit feeding polychaetes. After 14 mo, little of the diatom (13)C remained at Site III, but high concentrations of the tracer were present in annelids and agglutinating protozoans at Site I. At both sites, nonannelid metazoans and subsurface-deposit feeding annelids exhibited the least uptake and retention of diatom C. Our hypotheses that large-bodied taxa and shallow-dwelling infauna should have greatest access to freshly deposited organic matter were not borne out. Some small, deep-dwelling taxa acquired label more readily than large or near-surface forms. Differences in tracer fates between sites reflected greater vertical mixing at Site III. These results indicate heterogeneity in benthic processes along the Carolina margin. but suggest that labile organic matter is consumed quickly at both sites. Because most of the taxa found to consume freshly deposited diatoms in these experiments are typical of bathyal settings, we infer that phytodetritus reaching the seabed in margin environments is rapidly processed by protozoan and metazoan components of the benthic fauna.

Levin, LA, Talley TS, Hewitt J.  1998.  Macrobenthos of Spartina foliosa (Pacific cordgrass) salt marshes in southern California: Community structure and comparison to a Pacific mudflat and a Spartina alterniflora (Atlantic smooth cordgrass) marsh. Estuaries. 21:129-144.   10.2307/1352552   AbstractWebsite

Environmental attributes (vegetation and sediment properties) of and macrofaunal community structure in sediments of five southern California Spartina foliosa marshes (San Diego Bay, Mission Bay, Upper Newport Bay, Bolsa Chica Lagoon, and Anaheim Bay) were examined during October 1994. Macrofaunal densities in Pacific S. foliosa marshes (avg. 122,268 indiv. m(-2) > 300 mu m) were 3 to 10 times higher than observed in Atlantic S. alterniflora and S. anglica marshes. The macrofauna of S. foliosa marshes was composed mainly of enchytraeid, naidid, and tubificid oligochaetes (66%), with the enchytraeids dominant at all sites except Bolsa Chica Lagoon. Polychaetes, insects, and peracarid crustaceans accounted for most of the remaining fauna. Multivariate analyses indicated greatest faunal similarity between the two southernmost marshes (Mission Bay and San Diego Bay), and between Anaheim and Newport Bay marshes, with Bolsa Chica Lagoon exhibiting a distinct assemblage. There were strong positive associations of faunal abundance and composition with percent organic matter and percent open area, and negative associations with percent sand and dry weight of algae. For the vegetated marsh in Mission Bay, faunal comparisons were made with an adjacent mudflat and with a S. alterniflora marsh in North Carolina, USA. The unvegetated mudflat exhibited similar macrofaunal densities but higher species richness than the adjacent Spartina marsh. The macrofaunal assemblage of the Mission Bay S. foliosa marsh differed from that of the Atlantic S. alterniflora marsh and the Pacific mudflat in having a greater proportion of oligochaetes, especially Enchytraeidae, and fewer polychaetes. This study represents the first published description that we are aware of for macrofauna in S. foliosa vegetated marsh sediments. The findings document faunal variation among southern California embayments and suggest that differences in macrobenthic community structure occur between marsh and mudflat habitat as web as between east and west coast Spartina marshes. Observed differences may have significant implications for wetland conservation and restoration efforts.

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.

Levin, LA, Talley D, Thayer G.  1996.  Succession of macrobenthos in a created salt marsh. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. 141:67-82.   10.3354/meps141067   AbstractWebsite

Early succession of macrofauna was examined over several years in a created Spartina alterniflora marsh located on the Newport River Estuary, North Carolina, USA. Epifauna and infaunal community structure and composition were compared at 2 elevations in plots planted with S. alterniflora, plots left bare of vegetation and vegetated plots in a nearby natural S, alterniflora marsh. No significant successional differences were observed between vegetated and unvegetated sediments in the created marsh. The earliest stages of colonization involved recruitment by opportunistic estuarine polychaetes: Streblospio benedicti, Capitella spp, and Polydora cornuta. Capitella spp. dominated the macrofauna a month after marsh creation, but thereafter S. benedicti was the most abundant species. During the first few years, the artificial marsh retained early successional characteristics, with S, benedicti, Capitella spp. and turbellarians accounting for 75 to 95% of the total macrofauna. Fiddler crabs were common epifaunal colonists. After 4 yr, species richness increased and dominance by the early colonists diminished. Taxa lacking planktonic larvae and swimming adults were particularly slow to recover in the created marsh, but accounted for over 25% of the infauna by Year 4. Oligochaetes, which comprised over 50% of the fauna in the natural marsh, remained absent or rare in the artificial system throughout the study. Infaunal recovery appears to be more rapid in lower than upper marsh elevations. Although macrofaunal densities and species richness of sediments in the lower created marsh came to resemble those of the natural marsh within 6 mo, species composition and faunal feeding modes did not. These observations suggest there may be significant functional differences between young artificial marshes and older natural marshes. Consideration of the timing of marsh creation, marsh configuration, continuity with natural marshes, seeding of taxa with poor dispersal, and attention to species habitat requirements are recommended to accelerate infaunal colonization of created Spartina marshes.

Levin, LA, Dibacco C.  1995.  Influence of sediment transport on short-term recolonization by seamount infauna. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. 123:163-175.   10.3354/meps123163   AbstractWebsite

Rates and mechanisms of infaunal recolonization in contrasting sediment transport regimes were examined by deploying hydrodynamically unbiased colonization trays at 2 sites similar to 2 km apart on the flat summit plain of Fieberling Guyot in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Both study sites experienced strong bottom currents and high shear velocity (u* exceeding 1.0 cm s(-1) daily). Macrofaunal recolonization of defaunated sediments on Fieberling Guyot was slow relative to observations in shallow-water sediments, but rapid compared to other unenriched deep-sea treatments. Microbial colonization was slower but macrofaunal colonization was faster at White Sand Swale (WSS, 585 m), where rippled foraminiferal sands migrate daily, than at Sea Pen Rim (SPR, 635 m), where the basaltic sands move infrequently. Total densities of macrofaunal colonizers at WSS were 31 and 75% of ambient after 7 wk and 6.4 mo, respectively; at SPR they were 6 and 49% of ambient, respectively. Over 3/4 of the colonists were polychaetes (predominantly hesionids and dorvilleids) and aplacophoran molluscs. Species richness of colonizers was comparable at SPR and WSS and did not differ substantially from ambient. Most of the species (91%) and individuals (95%) recovered in colonization trays were taxa present in background cores. However, only 25% of the taxa colonizing tray sediments occurred in trays at both WSS and SPR. Sessile species, carnivores and surface feeders were initially slow to appear in colonization trays, but after 6.4 mo, colonizer feeding modes, life habits and mobility patterns mirrored those in ambient sediments at WSS and SPR. Defaunated sediments were colonized by larvae, juveniles and adults at both sites. These experiments provide the first observations of infaunal colonization on seamounts, and in deep, high-energy settings. Passive bedload transport appears to be a dominant colonization mechanism in unstable foraminiferal sands at WSS. Based on the rapid recovery of infauna in trays and low diversity at WSS, we infer that disturbance is a natural feature of this site and that the ambient fauna of WSS retains features of early succession. Infaunal colonization is slower in the stable substrate at SPR, where physical disturbance may occur much less frequently.

Levin, LA, Huggett CL, Wishner KF.  1991.  Control of deep-sea benthic community structure by oxygen and organic-matter gradients in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Journal of Marine Research. 49:763-800.   10.1357/002224091784995756   AbstractWebsite

At boundaries of oxygen minimum zones (OMZs), bathyal faunas experience steep gradients in oxygen and organic-matter availability. The present study compares changes in microbial, meiofaunal, macrofaunal and megafaunal benthic assemblages along these gradients on Volcano 7, a 2.3-km high seamount in the eastern tropical Pacific. Faunal tolerance to dysaerobic (low oxygen) conditions varies with organism size; microbial and meiofaunal abundances are less affected than macro- and megafaunal abundances. At the exceedingly low concentrations (< 0.1 ml/1) encountered on the upper summit of Volcano 7, oxygen appears to exert primary control over abundance, composition and diversity of macrofauna, overriding other factors such as food availability and sediment grain size. When oxygen concentration is sufficient, food availability in sediments (indicated by the presence of labile material such as chlorophyll a) is highly correlated with meiofaunal and macrofaunal abundance. Four distinct physical zones were identified on Volcano 7: (1) the coarse-grained upper summit zone (730-770 m) where near-bottom oxygen concentrations were usually lowest (often < 0.1 ml/1) and organic-matter (% organic carbon and chlorophyll a) availability was high, (2) the coarse-grained lower summit (770-1000 m) where near-bottom oxygen concentrations were usually slightly higher (0.11 to 0.16 ml/1) and organic-matter availability remained high, (3) the coarse-grained flank (1000-2000 m) where oxygen concentration was intermediate (0.7-0.9 ml/1) and sediment organic-matter content was very low, and (4) the finer-grained base (2000-3500 m) where oxygen values exceeded 2.5 ml/1, sediment organic carbon was moderate, and chlorophyll a was low. Abundances of larger forms (megafauna and macrofauna) were severely reduced on the upper summit, but attained high values (2.25/m2 and 8,457/m2 respectively) just tens of meters below. The smaller forms (bacteria and meiofauna) attained peak abundances on the low-oxygen upper summit, however, abundances of harpacticoid copepods were greatly reduced on the upper and lower summit, presumably due to oxygen limitation. Macrofaunal abundance and diversity patterns along the Volcano 7 oxygen/enrichment gradient resembled those typically observed along shallow-water gradients of organic pollution. Low densities of a few soft-bodied, low-oxygen tolerant species resided on the upper summit, a high-density, low-diversity assemblage inhabited the lower summit, and low-density, high-diversity assemblages occupied the flank and base sediments. The infaunal communities on Volcano 7 support the idea that OMZ boundaries are regions of enhanced biological activity. Modern faunal distributions and biogenic structures at OMZ boundaries may be useful in reconstructing oxygenation histories of ancient marine basins.