Publications

Export 11 results:
Sort by: Author Title Type [ Year  (Desc)]
2016
Pasulka, AL, Levin LA, Steele JA, Case DH, Landry MR, Orphan VJ.  2016.  Microbial eukaryotic distributions and diversity patterns in a deep-sea methane seep ecosystem. Environmental Microbiology. 18:3022-3043.   10.1111/1462-2920.13185   AbstractWebsite

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

2012
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

2010
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.

2009
Cowie, GL, Levin LA.  2009.  Benthic biological and biogeochemical patterns and processes across an oxygen minimum zone (Pakistan margin, NE Arabian Sea). Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 56:261-270.   10.1016/j.dsr2.2008.10.001   AbstractWebsite

Oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) impinging on continental margins present sharp gradients ideal for testing environmental factors thought to influence C cycling and other benthic processes, and for identifying the roles that biota play in these processes. Here we introduce the objectives and initial results of a multinational research program designed to address the influences of water depth, the OMZ (similar to 150-1300 m), and organic matter (OM) availability on benthic communities and processes across the Pakistan Margin of the Arabian Sea. Hydrologic, sediment, and faunal characterizations were combined with in-situ and shipboard experiments to quantify and compare biogeochemical processes and fluxes, OM burial efficiency, and the contributions of benthic communities, across the OMZ. In this introductory paper, we briefly review previous related work in the Arabian Sea, building the rationale for integrative biogeochemical and ecological process studies. This is followed by a summary of individual volume contributions and a brief synthesis of results. Five primary stations were studied, at 140, 300, 940,1200 and 1850 m water depth, with sampling in March-May (intermonsoon) and August-October (late-to-postmonsoon) 2003. Taken together, the contributed papers demonstrate distinct cross-margin gradients, not only in oxygenation and sediment OM content, but in benthic community structure and function, including microbial processes, the extent of bioturbation, and faunal roles in C cycling. Hydrographic studies demonstrated changes in the intensity and extent of the OMZ during the SW monsoon, with a shoaling of the upper OMZ boundary that engulfed the previously oxygenated 140-m site. Oxygen profiling and microbial process rate determinations demonstrated dramatic differences in oxygen penetration and consumption across the margin, and in the relative importance of anaerobic processes, but surprisingly little seasonal change. A broad maximum in sediment OM content occurred on the upper slope, roughly coincident with the OMZ; but the otherwise poor correlation with bottom-water oxygen concentrations indicated that other factors are important in determining sediment OM distributions. Downcore profiles generally showed little clear evidence of in-situ OM alteration, and there was little sign of OM enrichment resulting from the southwest monsoon in sediments collected in the late-to-postmonsoon sampling. This is interpreted to be due to rapid cycling of labile OM. Organic geochemical studies confirmed that sediment OM is overwhelmingly of marine origin across the margin, but also that it is heavily altered, with only small changes in degradation state across the OMZ. More negative stable C isotopic compositions in surficial sediments at hypoxic sites within the OMZ core are attributed to a chemosynthetic bacterial imprint. Dramatic changes in benthic community structure occurred across the lower OMZ transition, apparently related to OM availability and quality as well as to DO concentrations. High-resolution sampling, biomarkers and isotope tracer studies revealed that oxygen availability appears to exert threshold-type controls on benthic community structure and early faunal C processing. Biomarker studies also provided evidence of faunal influence on sediment OM composition. Together, the results offer strong evidence that benthic fauna at sites across the margin play important roles in the early cycling of sediment OM through differential feeding and bioturbation activities. (C) 2008 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

2008
Andersson, JH, Woulds C, Schwartz M, Cowie GL, Levin LA, Soetaert K, Middelburg JJ.  2008.  Short-term fate of phytodetritus in sediments across the Arabian Sea oxygen minimum zone. Biogeosciences. 5:43-53. AbstractWebsite

The short-term fate of phytodetritus was investigated across the Pakistan margin of the Arabian Sea at water depths ranging from 140 to 1850 m, encompassing the oxygen minimum zone (similar to 100-1100 m). Phytodetritus sedimentation events were simulated by adding similar to 44 mmol (13)C-labelled algal material per m(2) to surface sediments in retrieved cores. Cores were incubated in the dark, at in situ temperature and oxygen concentrations. Overlying waters were sampled periodically, and cores were recovered and sampled (for organisms and sediments) after durations of two and five days. The labelled carbon was subsequently traced into bacterial lipids, foraminiferan and macrofaunal biomass, and dissolved organic and inorganic pools. The majority of the label (20 to 100%) was in most cases left unprocessed in the sediment at the surface. The largest pool of processed carbon was found to be respiration (0 to 25% of added carbon), recovered as dissolved inorganic carbon. Both temperature and oxygen were found to influence the rate of respiration. Macrofaunal influence was most pronounced at the lower part of the oxygen minimum zone where it contributed 11% to the processing of phytodetritus.

2003
Levin, LA.  2003.  Oxygen minimum zone benthos: Adaptation and community response to hypoxia. Oceanography and Marine Biology, Vol 41. 41:1-45. AbstractWebsite

Mid-water oxygen minima (<0.5ml 1(-1) dissolved O-2) intercept the continental margins along much of the eastern Pacific Ocean, off west Africa and in the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal, creating extensive stretches of sea floor exposed to permanent, severe oxygen depletion. These seafloor oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) typically occur at bathyal depths between 200m and 1000m, and are major sites of carbon burial along the continental margins. Despite extreme oxygen depletion, protozoan and metazoan assemblages thrive in these environments. Metazoan adaptations include small, thin bodies, enhanced respiratory surface area, blood pigments such as haemoglobin, biogenic structure formation for stability in soupy sediments, an increased number of pyruvate oxidoreductases, and the presence of sulphide-oxidising symbionts. The organic-rich sediments of these regions often support mats of large sulphide-oxidising bacteria (Thioploca, Beggiatoa, Thiomargarita), and high-density, low-diversity metazoan assemblages. Densities of protistan and metazoan meiofauna are typically elevated in OMZs, probably due to high tolerance of hypoxia, an abundant food supply, and release from predation. Macrofauna and megafauna often exhibit dense aggregations at OMZ edges, but depressed densities and low diversity in the OMZ core, where oxygen concentration is lowest. Taxa most tolerant of severe oxygen depletion (<0.2mll(-1)) in seafloor OMZs include calcareous foraminiferans, nematodes, and annelids. Agglutinated protozoans, harpacticoid copepods, and calcified invertebrates are typically less tolerant. High dominance and relatively low species richness are exhibited by foraminiferans, metazoan meiofauna, and macrofauna within OMZs. At dissolved oxygen concentrations below 0.15 ml l(-1), bioturbation is reduced, the mixed layer is shallow, and chemosynthesis-based nutrition (via heterotrophy and symbiosis) becomes important. OMZs represent a major oceanographic boundary for many species. As they expand and contract over geological time, OMZs may influence genetic diversity and play a key role in the evolution of species at bathyal depths. These ecosystems may preview the types of adaptations, species, and processes that will prevail with increasing hypoxia over ecological and evolutionary time. However, many questions remain unanswered concerning controls on faunal standing stocks in OMZs, and the physiological, enzymatic, metabolic, reproductive and molecular adaptations that permit benthic animals to live in OMZs. As global warming and eutrophication reduce oxygenation of the world ocean, there is a pressing need to understand the functional consequences of oxygen depletion in marine ecosystems.

Levin, LA, Ziebis W, Mendoza GF, Growney VA, Tryon MD, Brown KM, Mahn C, Gieskes JM, Rathburn AE.  2003.  Spatial heterogeneity of macrofauna at northern California methane seeps: influence of sulfide concentration and fluid flow. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. 265:123-139.   10.3354/meps265123   AbstractWebsite

Relationships among fluid flow, sulfide concentration, sulfur bacteria and macrofaunal assemblages were examined at methane seeps on the northern California margin, near the mouth of the Eel River (512 to 525 m). Over a 6 mo period, sediments covered with microbial mats exhibited significant but variable outflow of altered fluids, with no flow reversals. This fluid flow was associated with high porewater sulfide concentrations (up to 20 mM) and almost no oxygen penetration of sediments (<0.1 mm). Vesicomya pacifica (clam) bed and non-seep sediments exhibited little net fluid outflow and similar oxygen penetration (3 and 4 mm, respectively); however, sulfide concentrations were higher in subsurface clam-bed sediments (up to 2 mM) than in non-seep sediments (<200 muM). Macrofaunal densities did not differ among the 3 habitats (13 800 to 16 800 ind. m(-2); >300 mum), but biomass and diversity (no. species per core, E(S-100), H') were lower and composition varied in the sulfidic microbial mat sediments relative to clam-bed and non-seep sediments. The community in microbial mat-covered sediments consisted largely (82%) of 6 species in the polychaete family Dorvilleidae, whereas the clam-bed and non-seep microhabitats supported a mixture of annelids, peracarid crustaceans, nemerteans, and mollusks. Vertical microprofiling of sulfide in animal cores indicated that most taxa avoid H2S concentrations >1 mM. However, sulfide-oxidizing filamentous bacteria, dorvilleid polychaetes and bivalves (mainly V. pacifica) exhibited highest densities at sulfide concentrations of 1 to 5 mM sulfide. Horizontal and vertical patterns of sulfide availability have a strong influence on the fine-scale distribution, structure and composition of macrofaunal assemblages inhabiting methane seeps and must be accounted for when characterizing the microbiology and ecology of seep habitats.

2002
Shankle, AM, Goericke R, Franks PJS, Levin LA.  2002.  Chlorin distribution and degradation in sediments within and below the Arabian Sea oxygen minimum zone. Deep-Sea Research Part I-Oceanographic Research Papers. 49:953-969.   10.1016/s0967-0637(01)00077-2   AbstractWebsite

The concentration of chlorophylla degradation products, i.e. chlorins, preserved in deep-sea sediments is a function of the amount of primary production input and the rate at which it is subsequently degraded. Sedimentary chlorins can be used as a proxy for paleoproductivity; however, our understanding of the factors controlling their preservation is limited. To study the effects of changes in export of primary production from the euphotic zone and of differences in depositional conditions on chlorin concentration in marine sediments, chlorins were analyzed by high pressure liquid chromatography from sediments taken within and below the oxygen minimum zone on the Oman margin in the Arabian Sea. Among five stations at water depths between 400 and 1250 m, variation in chlorin concentration in surface sediments (0-0.5 cm) was significantly related to water depth (used here as a proxy for chlorin fluxes to the sediments) and bottom-water oxygen concentration; the more important control on chlorin concentration of surficial sediments measured in this study is the amount of chlorins reaching the sediment. Chlorins decayed exponentially downcore (0-20 cm). The degradation of sedimentary chlorins was better described by a model in which chlorins decayed at different rates within and below the sediment mixed layer. The degradation rates within the mixed layer were 0.0280 +/- 0.0385 yr(-1) (t(1/2) = 73 yr). Below the mixed layer, degradation rates were one to two orders of magnitude less, ranging from 0.0022 +/- 0.0025 yr(-1) (t(1/2) = 680 yr). Many stations had subsurface chlorin concentration peaks between 6 and 10 cm depth. The most likely explanation for these peaks is a period of increased deposition of chlorins in the past. This could result from changes in local depositional environment or a more general increase in surface production resulting in an increased sedimentation of chlorins to the sediments 500-1000 years ago. Chlorins are a useful indicator of the magnitude of chlorin deposition; however their usage as indicators of paleoproductivity is more complicated. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Demaster, DJ, Thomas CJ, Blair NE, Fornes WL, Plaia G, Levin LA.  2002.  Deposition of bomb (14)C in continental slope sediments of the Mid-Atlantic Bight: assessing organic matter sources and burial rates. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 49:4667-4685.   10.1016/s0967-0645(02)00134-0   AbstractWebsite

As part of the Ocean Margins Program (OMP), organic carbon (14)C measurements have been made on benthic fauna and kasten core sediments from the North Carolina continental slope. These analyses are used to evaluate the nature and burial flux of organic matter in the OMP study area off Cape Hatteras. Despite the fact that surface sediment (14)C contents ranged from -41 to -215 per mil, the benthic fauna (primarily polychactes) all contained significant amounts of bomb-(14)C (body tissue (14)C contents ranging from + 20 to + 82 per mil). Bomb-(14)C clearly is reaching the seabed on the North Carolina slope, and the labile planktonic material carrying this signal is a primary source of nutrition to the benthic ecosystem. The enrichment of (14)C in benthic faunal tissue relative to the (14)C content of bulk surface-sediment organic matter (a difference of similar to 150 per mil) is attributed to a combination of particle selection and selective digestive processes. Organic carbon burial rates from 12 stations on the North Carolina slope varied from 0.02 to 1.7 mol of Cm(-2) yr(-1), with a mean value of 0.7 mol of C m(-2) yr(-1). The accumulation of organic matter on the upper slope accounts for < 1 % of the primary production in the entire continental margin system. The North Carolina margin was deliberately selected because of its potential for offshore transport and high sediment deposition rates, and even in this environment, burial of organic carbon accounts for a very small fraction of the primary production occurring in surface waters. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

1999
Fornes, WL, Demaster DJ, Levin LA, Blair NE.  1999.  Bioturbation and particle transport in Carolina slope sediments: A radiochemical approach. Journal of Marine Research. 57:335-355.   10.1357/002224099321618245   AbstractWebsite

In situ tracer experiments investigated short-term sediment mixing processes at two Carolina continental margin sites (water depth = 850 m) characterized by different organic C fluxes, (234)Th mixing coefficients (D(b)) and benthic assemblages. Phytoplankton, slope sediment, and sand-sized glass beads tagged with (210)Pb, (113)Sn, and (228)Th, respectively, were placed via submersible at the sediment-water interface at both field sites (Site I off Cape Fear, and Site m off Cape Hatteras). Experimental plots were sampled at 0, 1.5 days, and 90 days after tracer emplacement to examine short-term, vertical transport. Both sites are initially dominated by nonlocal mixing. Transport to the bottom of the surface mixed layer at both sites occurs more rapidly than (234)Th-based D(b) values predict; after 1.5 days, tagged particles were observed 5 cm below the sediment-water interface at Site I and 12 cm below at Site III. Impulse tracer profiles after 90 days at Site m exhibit primarily diffusive distributions, most likely due to a large number of random, nonlocal mixing events. The D(b) values determined from 90-day particle tagging experiments are comparable to those obtained from naturally occurring (234)Th profiles (similar to 100-day time scales) from nearby locations. The agreement between impulse tracer mixing coefficients and steady-state natural tracer mixing coefficients suggests that the diffusive analogue for bioturbation on monthly time scales is a realistic and useful approach. Tracer profiles from both sites exhibit some degree of particle selective mixing, but the preferential transport of the more labile carbon containing particles only occurred 30% of the time. Consequently, variations in the extent to which age-dependent mixing occurs in marine sediments may depend on factors such as faunal assemblage and organic carbon flux.

1994
Blair, NE, Plaia GR, Boehme SE, Demaster DJ, Levin LA.  1994.  The remineralization of organic carbon on the North Carolina continental slope. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 41:755-766.   10.1016/0967-0645(94)90046-9   AbstractWebsite

The sources and fates of metabolizable organic carbon were examined at three sites on the North Carolina slope positioned offshore of Cape Fear, Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras. The C-13/C-12 compositions (delta(13)C) of the solid phase organic matter, and the dissolved inorganic carbon (Sigma CO2) produced during its oxidation, suggested that the labile fraction was predominantly marine in origin. The Sigma CO2 concentration gradient across the sediment-water interface, and by inference the Sigma CO2 flux and production rate, increased northward from Cape Fear to Cape Hatteras. Methane distributions and Sigma CO2 delta(13)C values suggest that the rate of anaerobic diagenesis increased northward as well. The differences in sedimentary biogeochemistry are most likely driven by an along-slope gradient of reactive organic carbon flux to the seabed. This trend in reactive organic carbon flux correlates well with macrofaunal densities previously observed at the three sites. Proximity to the shelf and the transport of particulate material by surface boundary currents may control the deposition of metabolizable material on the Carolina slope. Evidence for methanogenesis was found only on the Cape Hatteras slope. The methane, which was produced at a depth of approximately 1 m in the seabed, was consumed nearly quantitatively in the biologically mixed layer as it diffused upward. Irrigation of the sediments by infauna may have provided the necessary oxidant for the consumption of the methane.