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Neira, C, King I, Mendoza G, Sellanes J, De Ley P, Levin LA.  2013.  Nematode community structure along a central Chile margin transect influenced by the oxygen minimum zone. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers. 78:1-15.   AbstractWebsite

Nematodes are among the metazoans most tolerant of low-oxygen conditions and play major roles in seafloor ecosystem processes. Nematode communities were studied in sediments off Concepción, Central Chile, spanning the outer shelf within the OMZ (122 m) to the mid-lower continental slope (972 m) beneath the OMZ. The total density and biomass of nematodes (core depth 0–10 cm) ranged from 677 to 2006 ind. 10 cm−2, and 168.4 to 506.5 µg DW 10 cm−2, respectively. Among metazoan meiofaunal taxa, nematodes predominated at all sites both in terms of relative abundance (83.7–99.4%) and biomass (53.8–88.1%), followed by copepods, nauplii and polychaetes. Nematodes were represented by 33 genera distributed among 17 families, with densities greatest at low oxygen sites (122–364 m; ~2000 ind. 10 cm−2). Nematode generic and trophic diversity, and individual biomass were lowest, and Rank 1 dominance was highest, at the most oxygen-depleted site (122 m), despite the fact that the organic carbon content of the sediment was maximal at this depth. At the most oxygenated slope sites (827 and 972 m), all of Wieser's nematode feeding groups were represented. In contrast, at the lowest-oxygen site, only selective deposit (bacterial) feeders (1A) were present, indicating a reduction in trophic complexity. A large percentage of nematodes inhabited subsurface sediment layers (>1 cm). At deeper, more oxygenated sites (827 and 972 m), nematode individual biomass increased downcore, while within the OMZ, nematode biomass was low and remained relatively uniform through the sediment column. The concentration of nematodes in deeper sediment layers, the vertical distribution of the feeding groups, as well as the high nutritional quality of the deeper layers, suggest a differential resource partitioning of the food available, which may reduce interspecific competition.

Levin, LA, Mendoza GF, Gonzalez JP, Thurber AR, Cordes EE.  2010.  Diversity of bathyal macrofauna on the northeastern Pacific margin: the influence of methane seeps and oxygen minimum zones. Marine Ecology-an Evolutionary Perspective. 31:94-110.   10.1111/j.1439-0485.2009.00335.x   AbstractWebsite

The upper continental slope in the northeastern Pacific Ocean is intercepted by a deep oxygen minimum zone (OMZ; 650-1100 m) and punctuated by conduits of methane seepage. We examined the effects of these two dominant sources of heterogeneity on the density, composition and diversity of heterotrophic macrofauna off Hydrate Ridge, Oregon (OR; 800 m water depth), where the seeps co-occur within an OMZ, and off the Eel River, Northern California (CA; 500 m), where seeps are overlain by better oxygenated waters. We hypothesized that seeps (containing clam beds and microbial mats) should contribute a suite of distinct species to the regional margin species pool but that OMZ-associated hypoxia would dampen seep-related heterogeneity. Macrofaunal densities were highest (23,000-33,510 ind.m(-2)) in the CA seep sediments and in the OR near-seep samples, intermediate in the OR seep, CA near seep and CA and OR 500-m margin sediments (10,05419,777 ind.m(-2)), and lowest in the CA and OR OMZ habitats at 800 m (42697847 ind.m(-2)). Annelids constituted over 50% of the taxa in all but the CA clam bed and OR microbial mat sediments, where mollusks were abundant. Approximately 50% of seep species appeared to be habitat endemic; species present in microbial mats largely formed a subset of those present in the clam beds. Dorvilleid and ampharetid polychaetes were dominant in the seep sediments; non-seep margin sediments at 500 and 800 m were populated heavily by branckiate polychaetes including cossurids and paraonids. Alpha diversity (Es[20] calculated per core) was lowest and rank 1 dominance was highest in the CA and OR microbial mat habitats. Pooled analyses of Es[100] revealed highest species richness in the CA clam bed and near-seep habitats (30.3 and 29.6, respectively), and lowest species richness in the OR microbial mat and near-seep habitats (16.5 and 17.9, respectively). Non-seep sediments (500 and 800 m) off both CA and OR were more homogeneous (55-57% within-habitat similarity) than clam bed and microbial mat sediments (only 32-37% within-habitat similarity). CA sediment macrofauna generally exhibit higher alpha diversity, and as habitats are combined, a higher rate of increase in the slope of the species accumulation curves than do OR margin macrofauna. Methane seeps in the NE Pacific introduce significant heterogeneity that increases margin biodiversity at multiple spatial scales. However, our hypothesis that the OMZ would lessen the seep contributions to diversity was not supported. The better oxygenated CA seeps at 500 in shared more of the background margin fauna (at 500 m) than did the OR seeps at 800 m (with OMZ fauna at 800 in). Geographical differences in the fluxes of methane-rich fluids and the increased reliance on chemosynthetic food sources with increased depth could explain these results.

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.

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.

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.