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Neira, C, Ingels J, Mendoza G, Hernandez-Lopez E, Levin LA.  2018.  Distribution of meiofauna in bathyal sediments influenced by the oxygen minimum zone off Costa Rica. Frontiers in Marine Science. 5   10.3389/fmars.2018.00448   AbstractWebsite

Ocean deoxygenation has become a topic of increasing concern because of its potential impacts on marine ecosystems, including oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) expansion and subsequent benthic effects. We investigated the influence of oxygen concentration and organic matter (OM) availability on metazoan meiofauna within and below an OMZ in bathyal sediments off Costa Rica, testing the hypothesis that oxygen and OM levels are reflected in meiofaunal community structures and distribution. Mean total densities in our sampling cores (400-1800 m water depth) were highest with 3688 ind. 10 cm(-2) at the OMZ core at 400 m water depth, decreasing rapidly downslope. Nematodes were overall dominant, with a maximum of 99.9% in the OMZ core, followed by copepods (13%), nauplii (4.8%), and polychaetes (3%). Relative copepod and nauplii abundance increased consistently with depth and increasing bottom-water O-2. Meiofaunal composition was significantly different among sites, with lower taxonomic diversity at OMZ sites relative to deeper, oxygenated sites. Vertical distribution patterns within sediments showed that in strongly oxygen-depleted sites less meiofauna was concentrated in the surface sediment than at deeper slope sites. Highest meiofaunal abundance and lowest diversity occurred under lowest oxygen and highest pigment levels, whereas highest diversity occurred under highest oxygen-concentrations and low pigments, as well as high quality of sedimentary pigment (chl a/phaeo) and organic carbon (C/N). The lower meiofaunal diversity, and lower structural and trophic complexity, at oxygen-depleted sites raises concerns about changes in the structure and function of benthic marine ecosystems in the face of OMZ expansions.

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.

Levin, LA, Mendoza GF, Konotchick T, Lee R.  2009.  Macrobenthos community structure and trophic relationships within active and inactive Pacific hydrothermal sediments. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 56:1632-1648.   10.1016/j.dsr2.2009.05.010   AbstractWebsite

Hydrothermal fluids passing through sediments create a habitat hypothesized to influence the community structure of infaunal macrobenthos. Here we characterize the density, biomass, species composition, diversity, distributions, lifestyle, and nutritional sources of macroinfauna in hydrothermal sediments in NE and SW Pacific settings, and draw comparisons in search of faunal attributes characteristic of this habitat. There is increasing likelihood that seafloor massive sulfide deposits, associated with active and inactive hydrothermal venting, will be mined commercially. This creates a growing imperative for a more thorough understanding of the structure, dynamics, and resilience of the associated sediment faunas, and has stimulated the research presented here. Macrobenthic assemblages were studied at Manus Basin (1430-1634 m, Papua New Guinea [PNG]) as a function of location (South Su vs. Solwara 1), and hydrothermal activity (active vs. inactive), and at Middle Valley (2406-2411 m, near Juan de Fuca Ridge) as a function of habitat (active clam bed, microbial mat, hot mud, inactive background sediment). The studies conducted in PNG formed part of the environmental impact assessment work for the Solwara 1 Project of Nautilus Minerals Niugini Limited. We hypothesized that hydrothermally active sites should support (a) higher densities and biomass, (b) greater dominance and lower diversity, (c) a higher fraction of deposit feeders, and (d) greater isotopic evidence for chemosynthetic food sources than inactive sites. Manus Basin macrofauna generally had low density (<1000ind.m(-2)) and low biomass (0.1-1.07gm(-2)), except for the South Su active site, which had higher density (3494ind.m(-2)) and biomass (11.94gm(-2)), greater dominance (R1D=76%), lower diversity and more spatial (between-core) homogeneity than the Solwara 1 and South Su inactive sites. Dominant taxa at Manus Basin were Spionidae (Prionospio sp.) in active sediments, and tanaids and deposit-feeding nuculanoid bivalves in active and inactive sediments. At Middle Valley, hot mud sediments supported few animals (1011 ind m(-2)) and low biomass (1.34g m(-2)), while active clam bed sediments supported a high-density (19,984indm(-2)), high-biomass (4.46gm(-2)), low-diversity assemblage comprised of largely orbiniid and syllid polychaetes. Microbial mat sediments had the most diverse assemblage (mainly orbiniid, syllid, dorvilleid, and ampharetid polychaetes) with intermediate densities (8191 ind m(-2)) and high biomass (4.23 g m(-2)). Fauna at both Manus Basin active sites had heavy delta(13)C signatures (-17 parts per thousand to -13 parts per thousand) indicative of chemosynthetic, TCA-cycle microbes at the base of the food chain. In contrast, photosynthesis and sulfide oxidation appear to fuel most of the fauna at Manus Basin inactive sites (delta(13)C = -29 parts per thousand to -20 parts per thousand) and Middle Valley active clam beds and microbial mats (delta(13)C = -36 parts per thousand to -20 parts per thousand). The two hydrothermal regions, located at opposite ends of the Pacific Ocean, supported different habitats, sharing few taxa at the generic or family level, but both exhibited elevated infaunal density and high dominance at selected sites. Subsurface-deposit feeding and bacterivory were prevalent feeding modes. Both the Manus Basin and Middle Valley assemblages exhibit significant within-region heterogeneity, apparently conferred by variations in hydrothermal activity and associaed biogenic habitats. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Gooday, AJ, Hughes JA, Levin LA.  2001.  The foraminiferan macrofauna from three North Carolina (USA) slope sites with contrasting carbon flux: a comparison with the metazoan macrofauna. Deep-Sea Research Part I-Oceanographic Research Papers. 48:1709-1739.   10.1016/s0967-0637(00)00098-4   AbstractWebsite

Food supply exerts a strong influence on benthic faunal abundance and community structure. Here, we compare community-level responses of macrofaunal foraminiferans and metazoans ( > 300 mum fraction) in relation to a gradient of organic carbon flux [Site III > II > I] along the 850 m contour on the North Carolina slope. Foraminiferan density, species richness E(S(100)), and dominance were positively correlated with organic carbon flux;. Foraminiferans were more abundant at Site III, displayed lower diversity and higher dominance, and tended to live deeper in the sediment column than at either Sites I or II. The Site I fauna was dominated by agglutinated taxa (mainly simple monothalamous forms and hormosinaceans) and included large epifaunal species, some of which projected from the sediment surface and probably fed on fresh phytodetritus. Hormosinaceans and monothalamous taxa also were abundant at Site II, although large epifaunal taxa were not present. The Site III fauna was dominated by calcareous tare. The most abundant species was Globobulimina auriculata, an infaunal, low-oxygen tolerant, deposit feeder with a calcareous test sometimes obscured by an agglutinated cyst. Plate-like or flattened fragments of small xenophyophore species occurred at Site I, an unusually shallow record for this taxon and the first from the North Carolina margin. Most of these fragments were dead. Xenophyophores were not present at Sites II and III. The metazoan macrofauna exhibited trends in density, diversity, dominance and vertical distribution within the sediment that parallel those of the foraminiferans and were correlated with between-site differences in food availability. However, metazoans were 4.5-6.5 times less abundant than the foraminiferans, were more diverse, exhibited lower dominance and (at least at Sites I and III) tended to penetrate the sediment less deeply, These differences suggest that foraminiferans, considered as a group, are more opportunistic than metazoans, tolerate oxygen depletion better, and have population dynamics that are more closely coupled to organic matter inputs than those of metazoans. Foraminiferan diversity trends are even more similar to those of the polychaetes at these sites, suggesting that there are ecological parallels between the two taxa despite their fundamental phylogenetic and structural differences. Foraminiferans are a ubiquitous yet frequently overlooked component of the macrofauna on continental margins that experience a broad range of organic input regimes. They deserve to be considered more often in macrofaunal studies addressing interactions between organisms and their environments. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Levin, LA, Etter RJ, Rex MA, Gooday AJ, Smith CR, Pineda J, Stuart CT, Hessler RR, Pawson D.  2001.  Environmental influences on regional deep-sea species diversity. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. 32:51-93.   10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.32.081501.114002   AbstractWebsite

Most of our knowledge of biodiversity and its causes in the deep-sea benthos derives from regional-scale sampling studies of the macrofauna. Improved sampling methods and the expansion of investigations into a wide variety of habitats have revolutionized our understanding of the deep sea. Local species diversity shows clear geographic variation on spatial scales of 100-1000 km. Recent sampling programs have revealed unexpected complexity in community structure at the landscape level that is associated with large-scale oceanographic processes and their environmental consequences. We review the relationships between variation in local species diversity and the regional-scale phenomena of boundary constraints, gradients of productivity, sediment heterogeneity, oxygen availability, hydrodynamic regimes, and catastrophic physical disturbance. We present a conceptual model of how these interdependent environmental factors shape regional-scale variation in local diversity. Local communities in the deep sea may be composed of species that exist as metapopulations whose regional distribution depends on a balance among global-scale, landscape-scale, and small-scale dynamics. Environmental gradients may form geographic patterns of diversity by influencing local processes such as predation, resource partitioning, competitive exclusion, and facilitation that determine species coexistence. The measurement of deep-sea species diversity remains a vital issue in comparing geographic patterns and evaluating their potential causes. Recent assessments of diversity using species accumulation curves with randomly pooled samples confirm the often-disputed claim that the deep sea supports higher diversity than the continental shelf. However, more intensive quantitative sampling is required to fully characterize the diversity of deep-sea sediments, the most extensive habitat on Earth. Once considered to be constant, spatially uniform, and isolated, deep-sea sediments are now recognized as a dynamic, richly textured environment that is inextricably linked to the global biosphere. Regional studies of the last two decades provide the empirical background necessary to formulate and test specific hypotheses of causality by controlled sampling designs and experimental approaches.