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Buhl-Mortensen, L, Vanreusel A, Gooday AJ, Levin LA, Priede IG, Buhl-Mortensen P, Gheerardyn H, King NJ, Raes M.  2010.  Biological structures as a source of habitat heterogeneity and biodiversity on the deep ocean margins. Marine Ecology-an Evolutionary Perspective. 31:21-50.   10.1111/j.1439-0485.2010.00359.x   AbstractWebsite

Biological structures exert a major influence on species diversity at both local and regional scales on deep continental margins. Some organisms use other species as substrates for attachment, shelter, feeding or parasitism, but there may also be Mutual benefits from the association. Here, we highlight the structural attributes and biotic effects of the habitats that corals, sea pens, sponges and xenophyophores offer other organisms. The environmental setting of the biological structures influences their species composition. The importance of benthic species as substrates seems to increase with depth as the complexity of the surrounding geological substrate and food supply decline. There are marked differences in the degree of mutualistic relationships between habitat-forming taxa. This is especially evident for scleractinian corals, which have high numbers of facultative associates (commensals) and few obligate associates (mutualists), and gorgonians, with their few commensals and many obligate associates. Size, flexibility and architectural complexity of the habitat-forming organism are positively related to species diversity for both sessile and mobile species. This is mainly evident for commensal species sharing a facultative relationship with their host. Habitat complexity is enhanced by the architecture of biological structures, as well as by biological interactions. Colony morphology has a great influence on feeding efficiency for suspension feeders. Suspension feeding, habitat-forming organisms modify the environment to optimize their food uptake. This environmental advantage is also passed on to associated filter-feeding species. These effects are poorly understood but represent key points for understanding ecosystems and biodiversity on continental margins. In this paper we explore the contributions of organisms and the biotic structures they create (rather than physical modifications) to habitat heterogeneity and diversity on the deep continental margins.

Cordes, EE, Cunha MR, Galeron J, Mora C, Olu-Le Roy K, Sibuet M, Van Gaever S, Vanreusel A, Levin LA.  2010.  The influence of geological, geochemical, and biogenic habitat heterogeneity on seep biodiversity. Marine Ecology-an Evolutionary Perspective. 31:51-65.   10.1111/j.1439-0485.2009.00334.x   AbstractWebsite

Cold seeps are among the most heterogeneous of all continental margin habitats. Abiotic Sources of heterogeneity in these systems include local variability in fluid flow, geochemistry, and substrate type, which give rise to different sets of microbial communities, microbial symbiont-bearing foundation species, and associated heterotrophic species. Biogenic habitats created by microbial mats and the symbiotic species including vesicomyid clams, bathymodiolin mussels, and siboglinid tubeworms add an additional layer of complexity to seep habitats. These forms of habitat heterogeneity result in a variety of macrofaunal and meiofaunal communities that respond to changes in structural complexity, habitat geochemistry, nutrient sources, and interspecific interactions in different ways and at different scales. These responses are predicted by a set of theoretical metacommunity models, the most appropriate of which for seep systems appears to be the 'species sorting' concept, an extension of niche theory. This concept is demonstrated through predictable patterns of community assembly, succession, and beta-level diversity. These processes are described using a newly developed analytical technique examining the change in the slope of the species accumulation curve with the number of habitats examined. The diversity response to heterogeneity has a consistent form, but quantitatively changes at different seep sites around the world as the types of habitats present and the size-classes of fauna analyzed change. The increase in beta diversity across seep habitat types demonstrates that cold seeps and associated biogenic habitats are significant sources of heterogeneity on continental margins globally.

Blankenship, LE, Yayanos AA, Cadien DB, Levin LA.  2006.  Vertical zonation patterns of scavenging amphipods from the Hadal zone of the Tonga and Kermadec Trenches. Deep-Sea Research Part I-Oceanographic Research Papers. 53:48-61.   10.1016/j.dsr.2005.09.006   AbstractWebsite

Deep-sea trenches present an ideal system in which to study vertical zonation, though the difficulties inherent in studying these great depths have thus far deterred such research. Here, we present the first account of the structure and vertical zonation of the scavenging guild residing in the hadal habitat of the Tonga and Kermadec Trenches (SW Pacific Ocean). Four species of scavenging amphipod (Eurythenes gryllus, Scopelocheirus schellenbergi, Hirondellea dubia, and Uristes sp. nov.) were captured with baited free-vehicle traps set 1 m above the seafloor and deployed to bottom depths between 5155 and 10,787 m. Each species occupied a distinct vertical zone of 3.5 km or less, and the scavenging amphipod assemblage vertically partitioned the hadal zone. Scavenging amphipod diversity and evenness sharply declined below 9 km. For S. schellenbergi and H. dubia, population structure was stratified ontogenetically. Early instars appeared to reside exclusively in the shallower depths of each species' vertical zone, and were functionally missing from the median and deeper regions. We captured brooding Uristes sp. nov. females, documenting the first bait-attendance event of brooding amphipods in the hadal zone. Separation of habitat in conjunction with deviations in reproductive traits, behaviors, and nutritional strategies may facilitate the coexistence of these four related species in this harsh and confining habitat. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Gallardo, VA, Palma M, Carrasco FD, Gutierrez D, Levin LA, Canete JI.  2004.  Macrobenthic zonation caused by the oxygen minimum zone on the shelf and slope off central Chile. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 51:2475-2490.   10.1016/j.dsr2.2004.07.028   AbstractWebsite

The relationship between macrobenthic (greater than or equal to 300 mum) zonation and the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ: O(2) < 0.5 ml L(-1)) was studied in shelf and slope sediments (122-840 m depth) off Concepcion Bay, central Chile. Four study sites were sampled during March-April 1999 for abiotic factors, macrofaunal density, biomass, mean individual size, and diversity. Within the OMZ (122-206 m), the macrofaunal density was high (16,478-21,381 individuals m(-2)) and 69-89% of the organisms were soft-bodied. Density was highest (21,381 individuals m(-2)), biomass lowest (16.95 g wet weight m-2), and individual size smallest (0.07 mg C individuals) at the shelf break site (206 m). Polychaete worms made up 71% of the total abundance, crustaceans 16%, and mollusks only 2%. Total abundance beneath the OMZ (mid-slope site, similar to840 m) was 49% crustaceans and 43% polychaetes. Although existing literature originally led to the hypothesis that both diversity and biomass within the OMZ would be lower than beneath the OMZ, in the present study this was only true for diversity. Biomass distribution, on the other hand, was concave along the depth gradient; the highest values were near the upper edge of (122 m) and beneath (840 m) the OMZ. Indices of the macrofaunal community structure varied in relation to bottom-water oxygen concentration, chlorophyll-alpha, phaeopigments, and sulfide concentration, but not in relation to grain size, C, N, mud, porosity, redox potential, a bottom-water temperature. (C) 2004 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Levin, LA, Gage JD.  1998.  Relationships between oxygen, organic matter and the diversity of bathyal macrofauna. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 45:129-163.   10.1016/s0967-0645(97)00085-4   AbstractWebsite

The relationships of environmental factors with measures of macrobenthic community diversity were examined for the total fauna, and for polychaetes only, from 40 bathyal stations in the North Atlantic, eastern Pacific and Indian Oceans (154-3400 m). Stepwise multiple regression revealed that depth, latitude, sediment organic-carbon content and bottom-water oxygen concentration are significant factors that together explained 52-87% of the variation in macrobenthic species richness (E[s(100)]), the Shannon-Wiener index (H'), dominance (D), and evenness (J'). Percent sand and percent clay were not significant factors. After removal of depth and latitudinal effects, oxygen and organic-carbon concentrations combined accounted for 47, 67, 52 and 32% of residual variation in macrobenthic E(s(100)), H', D, and J', respectively. Organic carbon exhibited a stronger relationship than oxygen to measures of community evenness, and appeared to have more explanatory power for polychaetes than total macrobenthos. When only stations with oxygen < 1mll(-1) were considered, oxygen concentration became the dominant parameter after depth. Results suggest existence of an oxygen threshold ( < 0.45 mi l(-1)), above which oxygen effects on macrobenthic diversity are minor relative to organic matter influence, but below which oxygen becomes a critical factor. Our regression results lead us to hypothesize that for bathyal faunas, oxygen at low concentrations has more influence on species richness, while organic carbon regulates the distribution of individuals among species (community evenness). Examination of rarefaction curves for Indo-Pacific stations reveals that total macrobenthos, polychaetes, crustaceans and molluscs all exhibit reduced species richness within oxygen minimum zones (OMZs). However, representation under conditions of hypoxia varies among taxa, with polychaetes being most tolerant. Molluscs and crustaceans often (but not always) exhibit few individuals and species in OMZs, and sometimes disappear altogether, contributing to reduced macrobenthic diversity and elevated dominance in these settings. The linear negative relationship observed between bathyal species richness and sediment organic-carbon content (used here as a proxy for food availability) may represent the right side (more productive half) of the hump-shaped, diversity-productivity curve reported in other systems. These analyses suggest then are potentially strong influences of organic matter and oxygen on the diversity and composition of bathyal macrobenthos, especially in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Levin, L, Blair N, DeMaster D, Plaia G, Fornes W, Martin C, Thomas C.  1997.  Rapid subduction of organic matter by maldanid polychaetes on the North Carolina slope. Journal of Marine Research. 55:595-611.   10.1357/0022240973224337   AbstractWebsite

In situ tracer experiments conducted on the North Carolina continental slope reveal that tube-building worms (Polychaeta: Maldanidae) can, without ingestion, rapidly subduct freshly deposited, algal carbon (C-13-labeled diatoms) and inorganic materials (slope sediment and glass beads) to depths of 10 cm or more in the sediment column. Transport over 1.5 days appears to be nonselective but spatially patchy, creating localized, deep hotspots. As a result of this transport, relatively fresh organic matter becomes available soon after deposition to deep-dwelling microbes and other infauna, and both aerobic and anaerobic processes may be enhanced. Comparison of tracer subduction with estimates from a diffusive mixing model using Th-234-based coefficients, suggests that maldanid subduction activities, within 1.5 d of particle deposition, could account for 25-100% of the mixing below 5 cm that occurs on 100-day time scales. Comparisons of community data from the North Carolina slope for different places and times indicate a correlation between the abundance of deep-dwelling maldanids and the abundance and the dwelling depth in the sediment column of other infauna. Pulsed inputs of organic matter occur frequently in margin environments and maldanid polychaetes are a common component of continental slope macrobenthos. Thus, the activities we observe are likely to be widespread and significant for chemical cycling (natural and anthropogenic materials) on the slope. We propose that species like maldanids, that rapidly redistribute labile organic matter within the seabed, probably function as keystone resource modifiers. They may exert a disproportionately strong influence (relative to their abundance) on the structure of infaunal communities and on the timing, location and nature of organic matter diagenesis and burial in continental margin sediments.