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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.

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.

Thurber, AR, Kroger K, Neira C, Wiklund H, Levin LA.  2010.  Stable isotope signatures and methane use by New Zealand cold seep benthos. Marine Geology. 272:260-269.   10.1016/j.margeo.2009.06.001   AbstractWebsite

The carbon isotopic composition of seep faunal tissue represents a time-integrated view of the interaction between biology and the biogeochemical gradients within the environment. Here we provide an initial description of carbon and nitrogen stable isotope signatures of dominant symbiont-bearing megafauna and heterotrophic mega- and macrofauna from 10 methane-seep sites on the continental margin of the North Island of New Zealand (662-1201 m water depth). Isotopic signatures suggest that sulfide oxidation supports symbiont-bearing taxa including solemyid and vesicomyid bivalves, and methanotrophic symbionts are present in the seep mussel Bathymodiolus sp Multiple species of Frenulata (Siboglinidae) are present and have a range of isotopic values that are indicative of both thiotroph- and methanotroph-based nutrition. Isotopic composition of the tubeworm Lamellibrachia sp. varied by 23 3 parts per thousand among individuals although there was no consistent difference among sites Variation in methane use by heterotrophic fauna appears to reflect the availability of hard vs. soft substrate, macrofauna on hard substrates had high delta(13)C signatures, reflecting consumption of photosynthetic-derived organic matter Two unique, biotic assemblages were discovered to be fueled largely by methane: a hard-substrate, multi-phyla sponge-associated community (inhabiting the sponge Pseudosuberites sp) and a soft-sediment assemblage dominated by ampharetid polychaetes Isotope signatures yield estimates of 38-100% and 6-100% methane-derived carbon in sponge associates and ampharetid-bed macrofauna. respectively. These estimates are comparable to those made for deeper methane seeps at the Florida Escarpment (3290 m) and Kodiak. Alaska seeps (4445 m) The overall high use of methane as a carbon source by both symbiont-bearing and heterotrophic fauna suggests that New Zealand methane seeps are an ideal model system to study the interaction among metazoans, bacteria, archaea, and their resulting effect on methane cycles. (C) 2009 Elsevier B V All rights reserved

Whitcraft, CR, Levin LA.  2007.  Regulation of benthic algal and animal communities by salt marsh plants: Impact of shading. Ecology. 88:904-917.   10.1890/05-2074   AbstractWebsite

Plant cover is a fundamental feature of many coastal marine and terrestrial systems and controls the structure of associated animal communities. Both natural and human-mediated changes in plant cover influence abiotic sediment properties and thus have cascading impacts on the biotic community. Using clipping ( structural) and light ( shading) manipulations in two salt marsh vegetation zones ( one dominated by Spartina foliosa and one by Salicornia virginica), we tested whether these plant species exert influence on abiotic environmental factors and examined the mechanisms by which these changes regulate the biotic community. In an unshaded ( plant and shade removal) treatment, marsh soils exhibited harsher physical properties, a microalgal community composition shift toward increased diatom dominance, and altered macrofaunal community composition with lower species richness, a larger proportion of insect larvae, and a smaller proportion of annelids, crustaceans, and oligochaetes compared to shaded ( plant removal, shade mimic) and control treatment plots. Overall, the shaded treatment plots were similar to the controls. Plant cover removal also resulted in parallel shifts in microalgal and macrofaunal isotopic signatures of the most dynamic species. This suggests that animal responses are seen mainly among microalgae grazers and may be mediated by plant modi. cation of microalgae. Results of these experiments demonstrate how light reduction by the vascular plant canopy can control salt marsh sediment communities in an arid climate. This research facilitates understanding of sequential consequences of changing salt marsh plant cover associated with climate or sea level change, habitat degradation, marsh restoration, or plant invasion.

Neira, C, Grosholz ED, Levin LA, Blake R.  2006.  Mechanisms generating modification of benthos following tidal flat invasion by a Spartina hybrid. Ecological Applications. 16:1391-1404.   10.1890/1051-0761(2006)016[1391:mgmobf];2   AbstractWebsite

Many coastal habitats are being substantially altered by introduced plants. In San Francisco Bay,, California, USA, a hybrid form of the eastern cordgrass Spartina alterniflora is rapidly invading open mudflats in southern and central sections of the Bay, altering habitat, reducing macrofaunal densities, and shifting species composition. The invasion has resulted in significant losses of surface-feeding amphipods, bivalves, and cirratulid polychaetes, while subsurface feeding groups such as tubificid oligochaetes and capitellid polychaetes have been unaffected. In the present paper, we document the causes and mechanisms underlying the changes observed. Through a series of in situ manipulative experiments we examined the influence of hybrid Spartina canopy on a range of physical, chemical, and biological properties. The hybrid Spartina canopy exerted a strong influence on. the hydrodynamic regime, triggering a series of physical, chemical, and biological changes in the benthic system. Relative to tidal flats, water velocity was reduced in hybrid patches, promoting deposition of fine-grained, organic-rich particles. The resulting changes in the sediment environment included increased porewater sulfide concentrations and anoxia, which led to poor survivorship. of surface feeders such as, bivalves, amphipods, and polychaetes. These are key taxa that support higher trophic levels including migratory shorebirds that feed on tidal flats. Altered flow in the Spartina canopy further contributed to changes in barnacle recruitment and resuspension of adult benthic invertebrates. Increased crab-induced predation pressure associated with Spartina invasion also contributed to changes in benthic invertebrate communities. Our results suggest that multiple physical, chemical, biotic, and trophic impacts of the Spartina invasion have resulted in substantial changes in benthic communities that are likely to have important effects on the entire ecosystem.

Neira, C, Levin LA, Grosholz ED.  2005.  Benthic macrofaunal communities of three sites in San Francisco Bay invaded by hybrid Spartina, with comparison to uninvaded habitats. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. 292:111-126.   10.3354/meps292111   AbstractWebsite

A hybrid cordgrass, formed from a cross between Spartina alterniflora (Atlantic cordgrass) and S. foliosa (Pacific cordgrass), has recently spread within the intertidal zone of south San Francisco Bay. Sediment properties and macroinfaunal community structure were compared in patches invaded by Spartina hybrid and adjacent uninvaded patches at 3 sites in San Francisco Bay (2 tidal flats and 1 Salicornia marsh). We hypothesized that (1) sediments vegetated by Spartina hybrid would have reduced sediment grain size, higher organic matter content, lower redox potential, lower salinity and reduced microalgal biomass relative to adjacent unvegetated tidal flat sediments, and (2) that differences in the sediment environment would correspond to changes in the infaunal invertebrate community structure and feeding modes. We observed 75 % lower total macro-faunal density and lower species richness in Spartina-vegetated sediments at Elsie Roemer (30 yr old invasion) than in an adjacent unvegetated tidal flat. This was due to lower densities of surface-feeding amphipods, bivalves, cirratulid and spionid polychaetes. The proportional representation of subsurface-deposit feeders was greater in Spartina patches than in unvegetated sediments. At a more recently invaded site (Roberts Landing; 15 yr invasion), Spartina patches differed from tidal flat sediments in composition, but not in abundance. Native (Salicornia) and Spartina patches exhibited similar sediment properties at San Mateo, where the Spartina hybrid invaded 8 to 10 yr earlier. No differences were detected in densities or proportions of surface- or subsurface-deposit feeders, but the proportion of carnivores/omnivores and grazers increased in the hybrid-invaded patches. These studies suggest that the invasive Spartina hybrid in south San Francisco Bay can have differing effects on sediment ecosystems, possibly depending on the location, age, or type of habitats involved.

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.

Levin, LA, Talley TS.  2002.  Natural and manipulated sources of heterogeneity controlling early faunal development of a salt marsh. Ecological Applications. 12:1785-1802.   10.2307/3099938   AbstractWebsite

Ecosystem recovery following wetland restoration offers exceptional opportunities to study system structure, function, and successional processes in salt marshes. This study used observations of natural variation and large-scale manipulative experiments to test the influence of vascular vegetation and soil organic matter on the rate and trajectory of macrofaunal recovery in a southern California created salt marsh, the Crown Point Mitigation Site. During the first three years following marsh establishment, macrofaunal density and species richness recovered rapidly within the Spartina foliosa (cordgrass) zone; densities in the created marsh were 50% of those in the natural marsh after 16 mo and 97% after 28 mo. However, the early successional assemblage had a lower proportion of tubificid and enchytraeid oligochaetes, and a higher proportion of chironomids and other insect larvae than did the mature natural marsh. Most of the colonizers arrived by rafting on sea grass and algae rather than by larval dispersal. Initial planting of S. foliosa had no influence on macrofaunal recovery, perhaps because of variable transplant survival. However, subsequently, both positive and negative correlations were observed between densities of some macrofaunal taxa and shoot densities of S. foliosa or Salicornia spp. (pickleweed). Salinity and measures of soil organics (belowground biomass, combustible organic matter, and chlorophyll a) also were correlated with macrofaunal densities and taxon richness. Of foul added soil amendments (kelp, alfalfa, peat, and Milorganite), Milorganite (a sewage product) and kelp both promoted macrofaunal colonization during year 1, but effects were short lived. The most significant sources of heterogeneity in the recovering marsh were associated with site history and climate variation. Faunal recovery was most rapid in highly localized, organic-rich marsh sediments that were remnants of the historical wetland. Elevated sea level during the 1998 El Nino corresponded with similarity of macrofaunal communities in the created and natural marshes. The large spatial scale and multi-year duration of this study revealed that natural sources of spatial and temporal heterogeneity may exert stronger influence on faunal succession in California wetlands than manipulation of vegetation or soil properties.

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.

Talley, TS, Levin LA.  1999.  Macrofaunal succession and community structure in Salicornia marshes of southern California. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science. 49:713-731.   10.1006/ecss.1999.0553   AbstractWebsite

Lack of basic understanding of ecosystem structure and function forms a major impediment to successful conservation of coastal ecosystems. This paper provides a description of the fauna and examines faunal succession in Salicornia-vegetated sediments of southern California. Environmental attributes (vegetation and sediment properties) and macrofaunal (animals greater than or equal to 0.3 mm) community structure were examined in sediments of five natural, southern California Salicornia spp. marshes (Tijuana Estuary, San Diego Bay, Mission Bay, Upper Newport Bay and Anaheim Bay) and in created Salicornia marshes 16 months to 10 years in age, located within four of the bays. Oligochaetes and insects were the dominant taxa in both natural (71 to 98% of total fauna) and created (91 to 97%) marshes. In San Diego, Newport and Anaheim Bays, macrofaunal densities were generally higher in the created marshes (88 000 to 290 000 ind m(-2)) than in their natural counterparts (26 000 to 50 000 ind m(-2)). In the youngest system, Mission Bay, the reverse was true (natural: 113 000 vs created: 28 000 ind m-2). Similar species numbers were recorded from the created and adjacent natural marshes. Insects, especially chironomids, dolichopodids, and heleids, as well as the naidid oligochaete, Paranais litoralis, characterize early successional stages. Enchytraeid and tubificid oligochaetes reflect later succession evident in natural and older created marshes. Sediment organic matter (both combustible and below-ground plant biomass) was the environmental variable most commonly associated with densities of various macrofaunal taxa. These relationships were generally negative in the natural marshes and positive in the created marshes. Within-bay comparisons of macrofauna from natural Salicornia- vs Spartina-vegetated habitat in San Diego and Mission Bays revealed lower macrofaunal density (San Diego Bay only), proportionally fewer oligochaetes and more insects, and no differences in species richness in the Salicornia habitat. The oldest created Salicornia marsh (San Diego Bay) exhibited an assemblage intermediate in composition between those of the natural Salicornia- and Spartina-vegetated marshes. These results suggest: (a) faunal recovery following Salicornia marsh creation can require 10 or more years, (b) high macrofaunal variability among bays requires marsh creation reference site selection from within the same bay, and (c) Spartina-based research should not be used for Salicornia marsh management decisions. (C) 1999 Academic Press.