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Sato, KN, Powell J, Rudie D, Levin LA.  2018.  Evaluating the promise and pitfalls of a potential climate change-tolerant sea urchin fishery in southern California. Ices Journal of Marine Science. 75:1029-1041.   10.1093/icesjms/fsx225   AbstractWebsite

Marine fishery stakeholders are beginning to consider and implement adaptation strategies in the face of growing consumer demand and potential deleterious climate change impacts such as ocean warming, ocean acidification, and deoxygenation. This study investigates the potential for development of a novel climate change-tolerant sea urchin fishery in southern California based on Strongylocentrotus fragilis (pink sea urchin), a deep-sea species whose peak density was found to coincide with a current trap-based spot prawn fishery (Pandalus platyceros) in the 200-300-m depth range. Here we outline potential criteria for a climate change-tolerant fishery by examining the distribution, life-history attributes, and marketable qualities of S. fragilis in southern California. We provide evidence of seasonality of gonad production and demonstrate that peak gonad production occurs in the winter season. S. fragilis likely spawns in the spring season as evidenced by consistent minimum gonad indices in the spring/summer seasons across 4 years of sampling (2012-2016). The resiliency of S. fragilis to predicted future increases in acidity and decreases in oxygen was supported by high species abundance, albeit reduced relative growth rate estimates at water depths (485-510 m) subject to low oxygen (11.7-16.9 mmol kg similar to 1) and pHTotal (< 7.44), which may provide assurances to stakeholders and managers regarding the suitability of this species for commercial exploitation. Some food quality properties of the S. fragilis roe (e. g. colour, texture) were comparable with those of the commercially exploited shallow-water red sea urchin (Mesocentrotus franciscanus), while other qualities (e. g. 80% reduced gonad size by weight) limit the potential future marketability of S. fragilis. This case study highlights the potential future challenges and drawbacks of climate-tolerant fishery development in an attempt to inform future urchin fishery stakeholders.

Sweetman, AK, Thurber AR, Smith CR, Levin LA, Mora C, Wei CL, Gooday AJ, Jones DOB, Rex M, Yasuhara M, Ingels J, Ruhl HA, Frieder CA, Danovaro R, Wurzberg L, Baco A, Grupe BM, Pasulka A, Meyer KS, Dunlop KM, Henry LA, Roberts JM.  2017.  Major impacts of climate change on deep-sea benthic ecosystems. Elementa-Science of the Anthropocene. 5:1-23.   10.1525/elementa.203   AbstractWebsite

The deep sea encompasses the largest ecosystems on Earth. Although poorly known, deep seafloor ecosystems provide services that are vitally important to the entire ocean and biosphere. Rising atmospheric greenhouse gases are bringing about significant changes in the environmental properties of the ocean realm in terms of water column oxygenation, temperature, pH and food supply, with concomitant impacts on deep-sea ecosystems. Projections suggest that abyssal (3000-6000 m) ocean temperatures could increase by 1 degrees C over the next 84 years, while abyssal seafloor habitats under areas of deep-water formation may experience reductions in water column oxygen concentrations by as much as 0.03 mL L-1 by 2100. Bathyal depths (200-3000 m) worldwide will undergo the most significant reductions in pH in all oceans by the year 2100 (0.29 to 0.37 pH units). O-2 concentrations will also decline in the bathyal NE Pacific and Southern Oceans, with losses up to 3.7% or more, especially at intermediate depths. Another important environmental parameter, the flux of particulate organic matter to the seafloor, is likely to decline significantly in most oceans, most notably in the abyssal and bathyal Indian Ocean where it is predicted to decrease by 40-55% by the end of the century. Unfortunately, how these major changes will affect deep-seafloor ecosystems is, in some cases, very poorly understood. In this paper, we provide a detailed overview of the impacts of these changing environmental parameters on deep-seafloor ecosystems that will most likely be seen by 2100 in continental margin, abyssal and polar settings. We also consider how these changes may combine with other anthropogenic stressors (e.g., fishing, mineral mining, oil and gas extraction) to further impact deep-seafloor ecosystems and discuss the possible societal implications.

Hansman, RL, Thurber AR, Levin LA, Aluwihare LI.  2017.  Methane fates in the benthos and water column at cold seep sites along the continental margin of Central and North America. Deep-Sea Research Part I-Oceanographic Research Papers. 120:122-131.   10.1016/j.dsr.2016.12.016   AbstractWebsite

The potential influence of methane seeps on carbon cycling is a key question for global assessments, but the study of carbon cycling in surface sediments and the water column of cold seep environments is complicated by the high temporal and spatial variability of fluid and gas fluxes at these sites. In this study we directly examined carbon sources supporting benthic and planktonic food webs at venting methane seeps using isotopic and molecular approaches that integrate this variability. At four seep environments located along North and Central America, microorganisms from two size fractions were collected over several days from 2800 to 90501 of seawater to provide a time-integrated measure of key microbial groups and the carbon sources supporting the overall planktonic microbial community. In addition to water column measurements, the extent of seafloor methane release was estimated at two of the sites by examining the stable carbon isotopic signature (delta C-13) of benthic metazoan infauna. This signature reveals carbon sources fueling the base of the food chain and thus provides a metric that represents a time-integrated view of the dominant microbial processes within the sediment. The stable carbon isotopic composition of microbial DNA (delta C-13-DNA), which had values between -17.0 and -19.5%(0), indicated that bulk planktonic microbial production was not ultimately linked to methane or other C-13-depleted seep-derived carbon sources. Instead these data support the importance of organic carbon derived from either photo- or chemoautotrophic CO2 fixation to the planktonic food web. Results of qPCR of microbial DNA sequences coding for a subunit of the particulate methane monooxygenase gene (pmoA) showed that only a small percentage of the planktonic microbial community were potential methane oxidizers possessing pmoA (< 5% of 16S rRNA gene copies). There was an overall decrease of C-13-depleted carbon fueling the benthic metazoan community from 3 to 5 cm below the seafloor to the sediment surface, reflecting limited use of isotopically depleted carbon at the sediment surface. Rare methane emission as indicated by limited aerobic methane oxidation acts to corroborate our findings for the planktonic microbial community.

Gallo, ND, Levin LA.  2016.  Fish ecology and evolution in the world's oxygen minimum zones and implications of ocean deoxygenation. Advances in Marine Biology, Vol 74. 74( Curry BE, Ed.).:117-198., San Diego: Elsevier Academic Press Inc   10.1016/bs.amb.2016.04.001   Abstract

Oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) and oxygen limited zones (OLZs) are important oceanographic features in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Ocean, and are characterized by hypoxic conditions that are physiologically challenging for demersal fish. Thickness, depth of the upper boundary, minimum oxygen levels, local temperatures, and diurnal, seasonal, and interannual oxycline variability differ regionally, with the thickest and shallowest OMZs occurring in the subtropics and tropics. Although most fish are not hypoxia-tolerant, at least 77 demersal fish species from 16 orders have evolved physiological, behavioural, and morphological adaptations that allow them to live under the severely hypoxic, hypercapnic, and at times sulphidic conditions found in OMZs. Tolerance to OMZ conditions has evolved multiple times in multiple groups with no single fish family or genus exploiting all OMZs globally. Severely hypoxic conditions in OMZs lead to decreased demersal fish diversity, but fish density trends are variable and dependent on region-specific thresholds. Some OMZ-adapted fish species are more hypoxiatolerant than most megafaunal invertebrates and are present even when most invertebrates are excluded. Expansions and contractions of OMZs in the past have affected fish evolution and diversity. Current patterns of ocean warming are leading to ocean deoxygenation, causing the expansion and shoaling of OMZs, which is expected to decrease demersal fish diversity and alter trophic pathways on affected margins. Habitat compression is expected for hypoxia-intolerant species, causing increased susceptibility to overfishing for fisheries species. Demersal fisheries are likely to be negatively impacted overall by the expansion of OMZs in a warming world.

Case, DH, Pasulka AL, Marlow JJ, Grupe BM, Levin LA, Orphan VJ.  2015.  Methane seep carbonates host distinct, diverse, and dynamic microbial assemblages. Mbio. 6   10.1128/mBio.01348-15   AbstractWebsite

Marine methane seeps are globally distributed geologic features in which reduced fluids, including methane, are advected upward from the subsurface. As a result of alkalinity generation during sulfate-coupled methane oxidation, authigenic carbonates form slabs, nodules, and extensive pavements. These carbonates shape the landscape within methane seeps, persist long after methane flux is diminished, and in some cases are incorporated into the geologic record. In this study, microbial assemblages from 134 native and experimental samples across 5,500 km, representing a range of habitat substrates (carbonate nodules and slabs, sediment, bottom water, and wood) and seepage conditions (active and low activity), were analyzed to address two fundamental questions of seep microbial ecology: (i) whether carbonates host distinct microbial assemblages and (ii) how sensitive microbial assemblages are to habitat substrate type and temporal shifts in methane seepage flux. Through massively parallel 16S rRNA gene sequencing and statistical analysis, native carbonates are shown to be reservoirs of distinct and highly diverse seep microbial assemblages. Unique coupled transplantation and colonization experiments on the seafloor demonstrated that carbonate-associated microbial assemblages are resilient to seep quiescence and reactive to seep activation over 13 months. Various rates of response to simulated seep quiescence and activation are observed among similar phylogenies (e.g., Chloroflexi operational taxonomic units) and similar metabolisms (e.g., putative S oxidizers), demonstrating the wide range of microbial sensitivity to changes in seepage flux. These results imply that carbonates do not passively record a time-integrated history of seep microorganisms but rather host distinct, diverse, and dynamic microbial assemblages. IMPORTANCE Since their discovery in 1984, the global distribution and importance of marine methane seeps have become increasingly clear. Much of our understanding of methane seep microorganisms-from metabolisms to community ecology-has stemmed from detailed studies of seep sediments. However, it has become apparent that carbonates represent a volumetrically significant habitat substrate at methane seeps. Through combined in situ characterization and incubation experiments, this study demonstrates that carbonates host microbial assemblages distinct from and more diverse than those of other seep habitats. This emphasizes the importance of seep carbonates as biodiversity locales. Furthermore, we demonstrate that carbonate-associated microbial assemblages are well adapted to withstand fluctuations in methane seepage, and we gain novel insight into particular taxa that are responsive (or recalcitrant) to changes in seep conditions.

Raman, AV, Damodaran R, Levin LA, Ganesh T, Rao YKV, Nanduri S, Madhusoodhanan R.  2015.  Macrobenthos relative to the oxygen minimum zone on the East Indian margin, Bay of Bengal. Marine Ecology-an Evolutionary Perspective. 36:679-700.   10.1111/maec.12176   AbstractWebsite

The Bay of Bengal remains one of the least studied of the world's oxygen minimum zones (OMZs). Here we offer a detailed investigation of the macrobenthos relative to oxygen minimum zone [OMZ - DO (dissolved oxygen), concentration <0.5ml1(-1)] at 110 stations off the North East Indian margin (16(0) and 20(0)N) featuring coastal, shelf and slope settings (10-1004m). Macrobenthos (>0.5mm) composition, abundance and diversity were studied in relation to variations in depth, dissolved oxygen, sediment texture and organic carbon. Using multivariate procedures powered by SIMPROF analysis we identified distinct OMZ core sites (depth 150-280m; DO 0.37ml1(-1)) that exhibited dense populations of surface-feeding polychaetes (mean 2188 ind. m(-2)) represented by spionids and cossurids (96%). Molluscs and crustaceans were poorly represented except for ampeliscid amphipods. The lower OMZ sites (DO>0.55mll(-1)) supported a different assemblage of polychaetes (cirratulids, amphinomids, eunicids, orbinids, paraonids), crustaceans and molluscs, albeit with low population densities (mean 343 ind. m(-2)). Species richness [E(S-100)], diversity (Margalef d; H') and evenness (J') were lower and dominance was higher within the OMZ core region. Multiple regression analysis showed that a combination of sand, clay, organic carbon, and dissolved oxygen explained 62-78% of the observed variance in macrobenthos species richness and diversity: E(S-100) and H'. For polychaetes, clay and oxygen proved important. At low oxygen sites (DO <1mll(-1)), depth accounted for most variance. Residual analysis (after removing depth effects) revealed that dissolved oxygen and sediment organic matter influenced 50-62% of residual variation in E(S-100), H' and d for total macrofauna. Of this, oxygen alone influenced up to similar to 50-62%. When only polychaetes were evaluated, oxygen and organic matter explained up to 58-63%. For low oxygen sites, organic matter alone had the explanatory power when dominance among polychaetes was considered. Overall, macrobenthic patterns in the Bay of Bengal were consistent with those reported for other upwelling margins. However, the compression of faunal gradients at shallower depths was most similar to the Chile/Peru margin, and different from the Arabian Sea, where the depth range of the OMZ is two times greater. The Bay of Bengal patterns may take on added significance as OMZs shoal globally.

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.

Larkin, KE, Gooday AJ, Woulds C, Jeffreys RM, Schwartz M, Cowie G, Whitcraft C, Levin L, Dick JR, Pond DW.  2014.  Uptake of algal carbon and the likely synthesis of an "essential" fatty acid by Uvigerina ex. gr. semiornata (Foraminifera) within the Pakistan margin oxygen minimum zone: evidence from fatty acid biomarker and C-13 tracer experiments. Biogeosciences. 11:3729-3738.   10.5194/bg-11-3729-2014   AbstractWebsite

Foraminifera are an important component of benthic communities in oxygen-depleted settings, where they potentially play a significant role in the processing of organic matter. We tracked the uptake of a C-13-labelled algal food source into individual fatty acids in the benthic foraminiferal species Uvigerina ex. gr. semiornata from the Arabian Sea oxygen minimum zone (OMZ). The tracer experiments were conducted on the Pakistan margin during the late/post monsoon period (August-October 2003). A monoculture of the diatom Thalassiosira weisflogii was C-13-labelled and used to simulate a pulse of phytoplankton in two complementary experiments. A lander system was used for in situ incubations at 140m water depth and for 2.5 days in duration. Shipboard laboratory incubations of cores collected at 140 m incorporated an oxystat system to maintain ambient dissolved oxygen concentrations and were terminated after 5 days. Uptake of diatoms was rapid, with a high incorporation of diatom fatty acids into foraminifera after similar to 2 days in both experiments. Ingestion of the diatom food source was indicated by the increase over time in the quantity of diatom biomarker fatty acids in the foraminifera and by the high percentage of C-13 in many of the fatty acids present at the endpoint of both in situ and laboratory-based experiments. These results indicate that U. ex. gr. semiornata rapidly ingested the diatom food source and that these foraminifera will play an important role in the short-term cycling of organic matter within this OMZ environment. The presence of 18:1(n-7) in the experimental foraminifera suggested that U. ex. gr. semiornata also consumed non-labelled bacterial food items. In addition, levels of 20:4(n-6), a PUFA only present in low amounts in the diatom food, increased dramatically in the foraminifera during both the in situ and shipboard experiments, possibly because it was synthesised de novo. This "essential fatty acid" is often abundant in benthic fauna, yet its origins and function have remained unclear. If U. ex. gr. semiornata is capable of de novo synthesis of 20:4(n-6), then it represents a potentially major source of this dietary nutrient in benthic food webs.

Mora, C, Wei CL, Rollo A, Amaro T, Baco AR, Billett D, Bopp L, Chen Q, Collier M, Danovaro R, Gooday AJ, Grupe BM, Halloran PR, Ingels J, Jones DOB, Levin LA, Nakano H, Norling K, Ramirez-Llodra E, Rex M, Ruhl HA, Smith CR, Sweetman AK, Thurber AR, Tjiputra JF, Usseglio P, Watling L, Wu TW, Yasuhara M.  2013.  Biotic and human vulnerability to projected changes in ocean biogeochemistry over the 21st century. Plos Biology. 11   10.1371/journal.pbio.1001682   AbstractWebsite

Ongoing greenhouse gas emissions can modify climate processes and induce shifts in ocean temperature, pH, oxygen concentration, and productivity, which in turn could alter biological and social systems. Here, we provide a synoptic global assessment of the simultaneous changes in future ocean biogeochemical variables over marine biota and their broader implications for people. We analyzed modern Earth System Models forced by greenhouse gas concentration pathways until 2100 and showed that the entire world's ocean surface will be simultaneously impacted by varying intensities of ocean warming, acidification, oxygen depletion, or shortfalls in productivity. In contrast, only a small fraction of the world's ocean surface, mostly in polar regions, will experience increased oxygenation and productivity, while almost nowhere will there be ocean cooling or pH elevation. We compiled the global distribution of 32 marine habitats and biodiversity hotspots and found that they would all experience simultaneous exposure to changes in multiple biogeochemical variables. This superposition highlights the high risk for synergistic ecosystem responses, the suite of physiological adaptations needed to cope with future climate change, and the potential for reorganization of global biodiversity patterns. If co-occurring biogeochemical changes influence the delivery of ocean goods and services, then they could also have a considerable effect on human welfare. Approximately 470 to 870 million of the poorest people in the world rely heavily on the ocean for food, jobs, and revenues and live in countries that will be most affected by simultaneous changes in ocean biogeochemistry. These results highlight the high risk of degradation of marine ecosystems and associated human hardship expected in a future following current trends in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Bowden, DA, Rowden AA, Thurber AR, Baco AR, Levin LA, Smith CR.  2013.  Cold seep epifaunal communities on the Hikurangi Margin, New Zealand: Composition, succession, and vulnerability to human activities. Plos One. 8   10.1371/journal.pone.0076869   AbstractWebsite

Cold seep communities with distinctive chemoautotrophic fauna occur where hydrocarbon-rich fluids escape from the seabed. We describe community composition, population densities, spatial extent, and within-region variability of epifaunal communities at methane-rich cold seep sites on the Hikurangi Margin, New Zealand. Using data from towed camera transects, we match observations to information about the probable life-history characteristics of the principal fauna to develop a hypothetical succession sequence for the Hikurangi seep communities, from the onset of fluid flux to senescence. New Zealand seep communities exhibit taxa characteristic of seeps in other regions, including predominance of large siboglinid tubeworms, vesicomyid clams, and bathymodiolin mussels. Some aspects appear to be novel; however, particularly the association of dense populations of ampharetid polychaetes with high-sulphide, high-methane flux, soft-sediment microhabitats. The common occurrence of these ampharetids suggests they play a role in conditioning sulphide-rich sediments at the sediment-water interface, thus facilitating settlement of clam and tubeworm taxa which dominate space during later successional stages. The seep sites are subject to disturbance from bottom trawling at present and potentially from gas hydrate extraction in future. The likely life-history characteristics of the dominant megafauna suggest that while ampharetids, clams, and mussels exploit ephemeral resources through rapid growth and reproduction, lamellibrachid tubeworm populations may persist potentially for centuries. The potential consequences of gas hydrate extraction cannot be fully assessed until extraction methods and target localities are defined but any long-term modification of fluid flow to seep sites would have consequences for all chemoautotrophic fauna.

Guilini, K, Levin LA, Vanreusel A.  2012.  Cold seep and oxygen minimum zone associated sources of margin heterogeneity affect benthic assemblages, diversity and nutrition at the Cascadian margin (NE Pacific Ocean). Progress in Oceanography. 96:77-92.   10.1016/j.pocean.2011.10.003   AbstractWebsite

Hydrate Ridge (HR), located on the northeastern Pacific margin off Oregon, is characterized by the presence of outcropping hydrates and active methane seepage. Additionally, permanent low oxygen conditions overlay the benthic realm. This study evaluated the relative influence of both seepage and oxygen minima as sources of habitat heterogeneity and potential stress-inducing features on the bathyal metazoan benthos (primarily nematodes) at three different seep and non-seep HR locations, exposed to decreasing bottom-water oxygen concentrations with increasing water depth. The nematode seep communities at HR exhibited low diversity with dominance of only one or two genera (Daptonema and Metadesmolaimus), elevated average individual biomass and delta C-13 evidence for strong dependance on chemosynthesis-derived carbon, resembling deep-sea seeps worldwide. Although the HR seep habitats harbored a distinct nematode community like in other known seep communities, they differed from deep-sea seeps in well-oxygenated waters based on that they shared the dominant genera with the surrounding non-seep sediments overlain by oxygen-deficient bottom water. The homogenizing effect of the oxygen minimum zone on the seep nematode assemblages and surrounding sediments was constant with increasing water depth and concomitant greater oxygen-deficiency, resulting in a loss of habitat heterogeneity. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Bernardino, AF, Levin LA, Thurber AR, Smith CR.  2012.  Comparative composition, diversity and trophic ecology of sediment macrofauna at vents, seeps and organic falls. Plos One. 7   10.1371/journal.pone.0033515   AbstractWebsite

Sediments associated with hydrothermal venting, methane seepage and large organic falls such as whale, wood and plant detritus create deep-sea networks of soft-sediment habitats fueled, at least in part, by the oxidation of reduced chemicals. Biological studies at deep-sea vents, seeps and organic falls have looked at macrofaunal taxa, but there has yet to be a systematic comparison of the community-level attributes of sediment macrobenthos in various reducing ecosystems. Here we review key similarities and differences in the sediment-dwelling assemblages of each system with the goals of (1) generating a predictive framework for the exploration and study of newly identified reducing habitats, and (2) identifying taxa and communities that overlap across ecosystems. We show that deep-sea seep, vent and organic-fall sediments are highly heterogeneous. They sustain different geochemical and microbial processes that are reflected in a complex mosaic of habitats inhabited by a mixture of specialist (heterotrophic and symbiont-associated) and background fauna. Community-level comparisons reveal that vent, seep and organic-fall macrofauna are very distinct in terms of composition at the family level, although they share many dominant taxa among these highly sulphidic habitats. Stress gradients are good predictors of macrofaunal diversity at some sites, but habitat heterogeneity and facilitation often modify community structure. The biogeochemical differences across ecosystems and within habitats result in wide differences in organic utilization (i.e., food sources) and in the prevalence of chemosynthesis-derived nutrition. In the Pacific, vents, seeps and organic-falls exhibit distinct macrofaunal assemblages at broad-scales contributing to beta diversity. This has important implications for the conservation of reducing ecosystems, which face growing threats from human activities.

Levin, LA, Sibuet M.  2012.  Understanding Continental Margin Biodiversity: A New Imperative. Annual Review of Marine Science, Vol 4. 4( Carlson CA, Giovannoni SJ, Eds.).:79-+., Palo Alto: Annual Reviews   10.1146/annurev-marine-120709-142714   Abstract

Until recently, the deep continental margins (200-4,000 m) were perceived as monotonous mud slopes of limited ecological or environmental concern. Progress in seafloor mapping and direct observation now reveals unexpected heterogeneity, with a mosaic of habitats and ecosystems linked to geomorphological, geochemical, and hydrographic features that influence biotic diversity. Interactions among water masses, terrestrial inputs, sediment diagenesis, and tectonic activity create a multitude of ecological settings supporting distinct communities that populate canyons and seamounts, high-stress oxygen minimum zones, and methane seeps, as well as vast reefs of cold corals and sponges. This high regional biodiversity is fundamental to the production of valuable fisheries, energy, and mineral resources, and performs critical ecological services (nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, nursery and habitat support). It is under significant threat from climate change and human resource extraction activities. Serious actions are required to preserve the functions and services provided by the deep-sea settings we are just now getting to know.

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.

Baco, AR, Rowden AA, Levin LA, Smith CR, Bowden DA.  2010.  Initial characterization of cold seep faunal communities on the New Zealand Hikurangi margin. Marine Geology. 272:251-259.   10.1016/j.margeo.2009.06.015   AbstractWebsite

Cold-seep communities have been known from the North Atlantic and North Pacific for more than 20 years, but are only now being explored in the Southern Hemisphere While fisheries bycatch had suggested the presence of cold seeps on the New Zealand margin, the biodiversity and distribution of these communities remained unknown. Explorations using towed cameras and direct sampling gear revealed that cold seep sites are abundant along the New Zealand Hikurangi margin Initial characterization of the faunal communities at 8 of these sites indicates a fauna that is associated with particular sub-habitats but which varies in abundance between sites Community composition is typical, at higher taxonomic levels, of cold seep communities in other regions The dominant. symbiont-bearing taxa include siboglinid (tube) worms, vesicomyid clams and bathymodiolin mussels At the species level, much of the seep-associated fauna identified so far appears either to be new to science, or endemic to New Zealand seeps, suggesting the region may represent a new biogeographic province for cold-seep fauna Some overlap at the species and genus level is also indicated between the sampled seep communities and the fauna of hydrothermal vents on the Kermadec Arc in the region. Further taxonomic and genetic identifications of fauna from this study will allow us to fully test the levels of species overlap with other New Zealand chemosynthetic ecosystems as well as with other cold seep sites worldwide These apparently novel communities exhibit evidence of disturbance from a deep bottom-trawl fishery and appear to be threatened along the entire New Zealand margin. As bottom fisheries, mining, and fossil-fuel exploitation move into deeper waters, seep communities may be endangered worldwide, necessitating the initiation of conservation efforts even as new seep ecosystems are discovered and explored. Our findings highlight the unique nature of anthropogenic impacts in the deep-sea. in which reservoirs of biodiversity can be impacted long before they are even known. (C) 2009 Elsevier B V All rights reserved

Gooday, AJ, Levin LA, da Silva AA, Bett BJ, Cowie GL, Dissard D, Gage JD, Hughes DJ, Jeffreys R, Lamont PA, Larkin KE, Murty SJ, Schumacher S, Whitcraft C, Woulds C.  2009.  Faunal responses to oxygen gradients on the Pakistan margin: A comparison of foraminiferans, macrofauna and megafauna. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 56:488-502.   10.1016/j.dsr2.2008.10.003   AbstractWebsite

The Pakistan Margin is characterised by a strong mid-water oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) that intercepts the seabed at bathyal depths (150-1300 m). We investigated whether faunal abundance and diversity trends were similar among protists (foraminiferans and gromiids), metazoan macrofauna and megafauna along a transect (140-1850 m water depth) across the OMZ during the 2003 intermonsoon (March-May) and late/post-monsoon (August-October) seasons. All groups exhibited some drop in abundance in the OMZ core (250-500 m water depth; O(2): 0.10-0.13 mL L(-1) = 4.46-5.80 mu M) but to differing degrees. Densities of foraminiferans >63 mu m were slightly depressed at 300 m, peaked at 738 m, and were much lower at deeper stations. Foraminiferans >300 mu m were the overwhelmingly dominant macrofaunal organisms in the OMZ core. Macrofaunal metazoans reached maximum densities at 140 m depth, with additional peaks at 850, 940 and 1850 m where foraminiferans were less abundant. The polychaete Linopherus sp. was responsible for a macrofaunal biomass peak at 950 m. Apart from large swimming animals (fish and natant decapods), metazoan megafauna were absent between 300 and 900 m (O(2) <0.14-0.15 mLL(-1) = 6.25-6.69 mu M) but were represented by a huge, ophiuroid-dominated abundance peak at 1000 m (O(2) similar to 0.15-0.18 mLL(-1) = 6.69-8.03 mu M). Gromiid protists were confined largely to depths below 1150 m (O(2) > 0.2 mLL(-1) = 8.92 mu M). The progressively deeper abundance peaks for foraminiferans (> 63 mu m), Linopherus sp. and ophiuroids probably represent lower OMZ boundary edge effects and suggest a link between body size and tolerance of hypoxia. Macro- and megafaunal organisms collected between 800 and 1100 m were dominated by a succession of different taxa, indicating that the lower part of the OMZ is also a region of rapid faunal change. Species diversity was depressed in all groups in the OMZ core, but this was much more pronounced for macrofauna and megafauna than for foraminiferans. Oxygen levels strongly influenced the taxonomic composition of all faunal groups. Calcareous foraminiferans dominated the seasonally and permanently hypoxic sites (136-300 m); agglutinated foraminiferans were relatively more abundant at deeper stations where oxygen concentrations were >0.13 mLL(-1)( = 5.80 mu M). Polychaetes were the main macrofaunal taxon within the OMZ; calcareous macrofauna, and megafauna (molluscs and echinoderms) were rare or absent where oxygen levels were lowest. The rarity of larger animals between 300 and 700 m on the Pakistan Margin, compared with the abundant macrofauna in the OMZ core off Oman, is the most notable contrast between the two sides of the Arabian Sea. This difference probably reflects the slightly higher oxygen levels and better food quality on the western side. (C) 2008 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Rathburn, AE, Levin LA, Tryon M, Gieskes JM, Martin JM, Perez ME, Fodrie FJ, Neira C, Fryer GJ, Mendoza G, McMillan PA, Kluesner J, Adamic J, Ziebis W.  2009.  Geological and biological heterogeneity of the Aleutian margin (1965-4822 m). Progress in Oceanography. 80:22-50.   10.1016/j.pocean.2008.12.002   AbstractWebsite

Geological, biological and biogeochemical characterization of the previously unexplored margin off Unimak Island, Alaska between 1965 and 4822 m water depth was conducted to examine: (1) the geological processes that shaped the margin, (2) the linkages between depth, geomorphology and environmental disturbance in structuring benthic communities of varying size classes and (3) the existence, composition and nutritional sources of methane seep biota on this margin. The study area was mapped and sampled using multibeam sonar, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and a towed camera system. Our results provide the first characterization of the Aleutian margin mid and lower slope benthic communities (micro-biota, foraminifera, macrofauna and megafauna), recognizing diverse habitats in a variety of settings. Our investigations also revealed that the geologic feature known as the "Ugamak Slide" is not a slide at all, and could not have resulted from a large 1946 earthquake. However, sediment disturbance appears to be a pervasive feature of this margin. We speculate that the deep-sea occurrence of high densities of Elphidium, typically a shallow-water foraminiferan, results from the influence of sediment redeposition from shallower habitats. Strong representation of cumacean, amphipod and tanaid crustaceans among the Unimak macrofauna may also reflect sediment instability. Although some faunal abundances decline with depth, habitat heterogeneity and disturbance generated by canyons and methane seepage appear to influence abundances of biota in ways that supercede any clear depth gradient in organic matter input. Measures of sediment organic matter and pigment content as well as C and N isotopic signatures were highly heterogeneous, although the availability of organic matter and the abundance of microorganisms in the upper sediment (1-5 cm) were positively correlated. We report the first methane seep on the Aleutian slope in the Unimak region (3263-3285 m), comprised of clam bed, pogonophoran field and carbonate habitats. Seep foraminiferal assemblages were dominated by agglutinated taxa, except for habitats above the seafloor on pogonophoran tubes. Numerous infaunal taxa in clam bed and pogonophoran field sediments and deep-sea "reef' cnidarians (e.g., corals and hydroids) residing on rocks near seepage sites exhibited light organic delta(13)C signatures indicative of chemosynthetic nutritional sources. The extensive geological, biogeochemical and biological heterogeneity as well as disturbance features observed on the Aleutian slope provide an attractive explanation for the exceptionally high biodiversity characteristic of the world's continental margins. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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.

Woulds, C, Cowie GL, Levin LA, Andersson JH, Middelburg JJ, Vandewiele S, Lamont PA, Larkin KE, Gooday AJ, Schumacher S, Whitcraft C, Jeffreys RM, Schwartz M.  2007.  Oxygen as a control on seafloor biological communities and their roles in sedimentary carbon cycling. Limnology and Oceanography. 52:1698-1709.   10.4319/lo.2007.52.4.1698   AbstractWebsite

C-13 tracer experiments were conducted at sites spanning the steep oxygen, organic matter, and biological community gradients across the Arabian Sea oxygen minimum zone, in order to quantify the role that benthic fauna play in the short-term processing of organic matter (OM) and to determine how this varies among different environments. Metazoan macrofauna and macrofauna-sized foraminiferans took up as much as 56 +/- 13 mg of added C m(-2) (685 mg C m(-2) added) over 2-5 d, and at some sites this uptake was similar in magnitude to bacterial uptake and/or total respiration. Bottom-water dissolved oxygen concentrations exerted a strong control over metazoan macrofaunal OM processing. At oxygen concentrations > 7 mu mol L-1 (0.16 ml L-1), metazoan macrofauna were able to take advantage of abundant OM and to dominate OM uptake, while OM processing at O-2 concentrations of 5.0 mu mol L-1 (0.11 ml L-1) was dominated instead by (macrofaunal) foraminiferans. This led us to propose the hypothesis that oxygen controls the relative dominance of metazoan macrofauna and foraminifera in a threshold manner, with the threshold lying between 5 and 7 mu mol L-1 (0.11 to 0.16 ml L-1). Large metazoan macrofaunal biomass and high natural concentrations of OM were also associated with rapid processing of fresh OM by the benthic community. Where they were present, the polychaete Linopherus sp. and the calcareous foraminiferan Uvigerina ex gr. semiornata, dominated the uptake of OM above and below, respectively, the proposed threshold concentrations of bottom-water oxygen.

Helly, JJ, Levin LA.  2004.  Global distribution of naturally occurring marine hypoxia on continental margins. Deep-Sea Research Part I-Oceanographic Research Papers. 51:1159-1168.   10.1016/j.dsr.2004.03.009   AbstractWebsite

Hypoxia in the ocean influences biogeochemical cycling of elements, the distribution of marine species and the economic well being of many coastal countries. Previous delineations of hypoxic environments focus on those in enclosed seas where hypoxia may be exacerbated by anthropogenically induced eutrophication. Permanently hypoxic water masses in the open ocean, referred to as oxygen minimum zones, impinge on a much larger seafloor surface area along continental margins of the eastern Pacific, Indian and western Atlantic Oceans. We provide the first global quantification of naturally hypoxic continental margin floor by determining upper and lower oxygen minimum zone depth boundaries from hydrographic data and computing the area between the isobaths using seafloor topography. This approach reveals that there are over one million km(2) of permanently hypoxic shelf and bathyal sea floor, where dissolved oxygen is <0.5ml l(-1); over half (59%) occurs in the northern Indian Ocean. We also document strong variation in the intensity, vertical position and thickness of the OMZ as a function of latitude in the eastern Pacific Ocean and as a function of longitude in the northern Indian Ocean. Seafloor OMZs are regions of low biodiversity and are inhospitable to most commercially valuable marine resources, but support a fascinating array of protozoan and metazoan adaptations to hypoxic conditions. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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, 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.

Gooday, AJ, Bernhard JM, Levin LA, Suhr SB.  2000.  Foraminifera in the Arabian Sea oxygen minimum zone and other oxygen-deficient settings: taxonomic composition, diversity, and relation to metazoan faunas. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 47:25-54.   10.1016/s0967-0645(99)00099-5   AbstractWebsite

Previous work has shown that some foraminiferal species thrive in organically enriched, oxygen-depleted environments. Here, we compare 'live' (stained) faunas in multicorer samples (0-1 cm layer) obtained at two sites on the Oman margin, one located at 412m within the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) (O(2) = 0.13 ml l(-1)), the other located at 3350 m, well below the main OMZ (O(2) similar to 3.00 ml l(-1)). While earlier studies have focused on the hard-shelled (predominantly calcareous) foraminifera, we consider complete stained assemblages, including poorly known, soft-shelled, monothalamous forms. Densities at the 412-m site were much higher (16,107 individuals.10 cm(-2) in the > 63-mu m fraction) than at the 3350-m site (625 indiv.10 cm(-2)). Species richness (E(S(100))), diversity (H', Fishers Alpha index) and evenness (J') were much lower, and dominance (R1D) was higher, at 412 m compared with 3350 m. At 412 m, small calcareous foraminifera predominated and soft-shelled allogromiids and sacamminids were a minor faunal element. At 3350 m, calcareous individuals were much less common and allogromiids and saccamminids formed a substantial component of the fauna. There were also strong contrasts between the foraminiferal macrofauna( > 300-mu m fraction) at these two sites; relatively small species of Bathysiphon, Globobulimina and Lagenammina dominated at 412 m, very large, tubular, agglutinated species of Bathysiphon, Hyperammina, Rhabdammina and Saccorhiza were important at 3350 m. Our observations suggest that, because they contain fewer soft-shelled and agglutinated foraminifera, a smaller proportion of bathyal, low-oxygen faunas is lost during fossilization compared to faunas from well-oxygenated environments. Trends among foraminifera (> 63 mu m fraction) in the Santa Barbara Basin (590 and 610m depth; O(2) = 0.05 and 0.15 ml(-1) respectively), and macrofaunal foraminifera(> 300 mu m) on the Peru margin (300-1250 m depth: O(2) = 0.02-1.60 mi l(-1)), matched those observed on the Oman margin. Tn particular, soft-shelled monothalamous taxa were rare and large agglutinated taxa were absent in the most oxygen-depleted ( < 0.20 mi l(-1)) stations. Foraminifera often outnumber metazoans (both meiofaunal and macrofaunal) in bathyal oxygen-depleted settings. However, although phylogenetically distant, foraminifera and metazoans exhibit similar population responses to oxygen depletion; species diversity decreases, dominance increases, and the relative abundance of the major taxa changes. The foraminiferal macrofauna ( > 300 mu m) were 5 times more abundant than the metazoan macrofauna at 412 m on the Oman margin but 16 times more abundant at the 3350 m site. Among the meiofauna (63-300 mu m), the trend was reversed, foraminifera were 17 times more abundant than metazoan taxa at 412 m but only 1.4 times more abundant at 3350 In. An abundance of food combined with oxygen levels which are not depressed sufficiently to eliminate the more tolerant taxa, probably explains why foraminifera and macrofaunal metazoans flourished at the 412-m site, perhaps to the detriment of the metazoan meiofauna. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Levin, LA, Gage JD, Martin C, Lamont PA.  2000.  Macrobenthic community structure within and beneath the oxygen minimum zone, NW Arabian Sea. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 47:189-226.   10.1016/s0967-0645(99)00103-4   AbstractWebsite

Investigations of macrobenthos were carried out within and beneath the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ, < 0.5 ml l(-1)) during Fall 1994 on the Oman margin, NW Arabian Sea. Six stations (400, 700, 850, 1000, 1250 and 3400m) were characterized with respect to macrofaunal abundance, biomass, body size, taxonomic composition, diversity and lifestyles, and the relation of these parameters to environmental conditions. The OMZ (400-1000 m) was dominated by a dense (5818-19,183 ind m(-2)), soft-bodied assemblage consisting largely (86-99%) of surface-feeding polychaetes, Spionids and cirratulids dominated at the 400- and 700-m stations, paraonids and ampharetids at the 850- and 1000-m stations. Molluscs and most crustaceans were common only below the OMZ ( greater than or equal to 1250 m); a species of the amphipod Ampelisca was abundant within the OMZ, however. Both density and biomass were elevated within the OMZ relative to stations below but body size did not differ significantly among stations. The lower OMZ boundary (0.5 ml l(-1)) was not a zone of enhanced macrofaunal standing stock, as originally hypothesized. However, abundance maxima at 700-850m may reflect an oxygen threshold (0.15-0.20 ml l(-1)) above which macrofauna take advantage of organically enriched sediments. Incidence of burrowing and subsurface-deposit feeding increased below the OMZ, Species richness (E[S(100)]), diversity (H') and evenness (J') were lower and dominance (R1D) was higher within than beneath the OMZ. Within-station (between-boxcore) faunal heterogeneity increased markedly below the OMZ. Surface sediment pigment concentrations and oxygen together explained 96-99% of the variance in measures of E[S(100)], H' and J' across the transect; grain size and % TOC did not yield significant regressions. Pigments, assumed to reflect food availability and possibly oxygen effects on organic matter preservation, were negatively correlated with species richness and evenness, and positively correlated with dominance. The reverse was true for water depth. Macrobenthic patterns of calcification and lifestyle within the Oman margin OMZ (0.13-0.3 mi l(-1)) match the dysaerobic biofacies of paleo-environmental reconstruction models. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

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.