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Neira, C, Vales M, Mendoza G, Hoh E, Levin LA.  2018.  Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in recreational marina sediments of San Diego Bay, southern California. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 126:204-214.   10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.10.096   AbstractWebsite

Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) concentrations were determined in surface sediments from three recreational marinas in San Diego Bay, California. Total PCB concentrations ranged from 23 to 153, 31-294, and 151-1387 ng g(-1) for Shelter Island Yacht Basin (SIYB), Harbor Island West (HW) and Harbor Island East (HE), respectively. PCB concentrations were significantly higher in HE and PCB group composition differed relative to HW and SIYB, which were not significantly different from each other in concentration or group composition. In marina sediments there was a predominance (82-85%) of heavier molecular weight PCBs with homologous groups (6CL-7CL) comprising 59% of the total. In HE 75% of the sites exceeded the effect range median (ERM), and toxicity equivalence (TEQ dioxin-like PCBs) values were higher relative to those of HW and SIYB, suggesting a potential ecotoxicological risk.

Moseman-Valtierra, S, Levin LA, Martin RM.  2016.  Anthropogenic impacts on nitrogen fixation rates between restored and natural Mediterranean salt marshes. Marine Ecology-an Evolutionary Perspective. 37:370-379.   10.1111/maec.12289   AbstractWebsite

To test the effects of site and successional stage on nitrogen fixation rates in salt marshes of the Venice Lagoon, Italy, acetylene reduction assays were performed with Salicornia veneta- and Spartina townsendii-vegetated sediments from three restored (6-14years) and two natural marshes. Average nitrogen fixation (acetylene reduction) rates ranged from 31 to 343 mu mol C2H4.m(-2.)h(-1) among all marshes, with the greatest average rates being from one natural marsh (Tezze Fonde). These high rates are up to six times greater than those reported from Southern California Spartina marshes of similar Mediterranean climate, but substantially lower than those found in moister climates of the Atlantic US coast. Nitrogen fixation rates did not consistently vary between natural and restored marshes within a site (Fossei Est, Tezze Fonde, Cenesa) but were negatively related to assayed plant biomass within the acetylene reduction samples collected among all marshes. Highest nitrogen fixation rates were found at Tezze Fonde, the location closest to the city of Venice, in both natural and restored marshes, suggesting possible site-specific impacts of anthropogenic stress on marsh succession.

Neira, C, Mendoza G, Porrachia M, Stransky C, Levin LA.  2015.  Macrofaunal recolonization of copper-contaminated sediments in San Diego Bay. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 101:794-804.   10.1016/j.marpolbul.2015.09.023   AbstractWebsite

Effects of Cu-loading on macrofaunal recolonization were examined in Shelter Island Yacht Basin (San Diego Bay, California). Sediments with high and low Cu levels were defaunated and Cu-spiked, translocated, and then placed back into the environment These demonstrated that the alteration observed in benthic communities associated with Cu contamination occurs during initial recolonization. After a 3-month exposure to sediments with varying Cu levels, two primary colonizing communities were identified: (1) a "mouth assemblage" resembling adjacent background fauna associated with low-Cu levels that was more diverse and predominantly dominated by surface- and subsurface-deposit feeders, burrowers, and tube builders, and (2) a "head assemblage" resembling adjacent background fauna associated with high-Cu concentrations, with few dominant species and an increasing importance of carnivores and mobile epifauna. Cu loading can cause reduced biodiversity and lower structural complexity that may last several months if high concentrations persist, with a direct effect on community functioning. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Neira, C, Levin LA, Mendoza G, Zirino A.  2014.  Alteration of benthic communities associated with copper contamination linked to boat moorings. Marine Ecology-an Evolutionary Perspective. 35:46-66.   10.1111/maec.12054   AbstractWebsite

Although copper (Cu) is an essential element for life, leaching from boat paint can cause excess environmental loading in enclosed marinas. The effects of copper contamination on benthic macrofaunal communities were examined in three San Diego Bay marinas (America's Cup, Harbor Island West and East) in Southern California, USA. The distribution of Cu concentration in sediments exhibited a clear spatial gradient, with hotspots created by the presence of boats, which in two marinas exceeded the effect range medium (ERM). Elevated sediment Cu was associated with differences in benthic assemblages, reduced species richness and enhanced dominance in America's Cup and Harbor Island West, whereas Harbor Island East did not appear to be affected. At sites without boats there were greater abundances of some amphipods such as the species Desdimelita sp., Harpinia sp., Aoroides sp., Corophium sp., Podocerus sp., bivalves such as Lyonsia californica, Musculista senhousia, Macoma sp., and polychaetes such as Diplocirrus sp. In contrast, at sites with boats, densities of Pseudopolydora paucibranchiata, Polydora nuchalis, Euchone limnicola, Exogone lourei, Tubificoides spp. were enhanced. The limited impact on Harbor Island East suggests not only lower Cu input rates and increased water flushing and mixing, but also the presence of adequate defense mechanisms that regulate availability and mitigate toxic impacts. At all three marinas, Cu in tissues of several macrobenthic species exhibited Cu bioaccumulation above levels found in the surrounding environment. The annelids Lumbrineris sp. and Tubificoides spp., and the amphipod Desdimelita sp. contained high levels of Cu, suggesting they function as Cu bioaccumulators. The spionid polychaetes Polydora nuchalis and Pseudopolydora paucibranchiata had much lower Cu concentrations than surrounding sediments, suggesting they function as Cu bioregulators. The macrobenthic invertebrates in San Diego Bay marinas that tolerate Cu pollution (e.g. P.nuchalis, P.paucibranchiata, Euchone limnicola, Typosyllis sp., Tubificoides sp.) may function as indicators of high-Cu conditions, whereas the presence of Cu-sensitive species (e.g. Podocerus sp., Aoroides sp., Harpinia sp., Macoma sp., Lyonsia californica) may indicate healthier conditions (less Cu-stressed). Parallel responses by faunas of Shelter Island Yacht Basin, also in San Diego Bay, suggest potential for development of regional Cu contamination assessment criteria, and call for functional comparisons with other marinas and coastal water bodies.

Carson, HS, Cook GS, Lopez-Duarte PC, Levin LA.  2011.  Evaluating the importance of demographic connectivity in a marine metapopulation. Ecology. 92:1972-1984. AbstractWebsite

Recently researchers have gone to great lengths to measure marine metapopulation connectivity via tagging, genetic, and trace-elemental fingerprinting studies. These empirical estimates of larval dispersal are key to assessing the significance of metapopulation connectivity within a demographic context, but the life-history data required to do this are rarely available. To evaluate the demographic consequences of connectivity we constructed seasonal, size-structured metapopulation matrix models for two species of mytilid mussel in San Diego County, California, USA. The self-recruitment and larval exchange terms were produced from a time series of realized connectivities derived from trace-elemental fingerprinting of larval shells during spring and fall from 2003 to 2008. Both species exhibited a strong seasonal pattern of southward movement of recruits in spring and northward movement in fall. Growth and mortality terms were estimated using mark recapture data from representative sites for each species and subpopulation, and literature estimates of juvenile mortality. Fecundity terms were estimated using county-wide settlement data from 2006-2008; these data reveal peak reproduction and recruitment in fall for Mytilus californianus, and spring for M. galloprovincialis. Elasticity and life-stage simulation analyses were employed to identify the season- and subpopulation-specific vital rates and connectivity terms to which the metapopulation growth rate (lambda) was most sensitive. For both species, metapopulation growth was most sensitive to proportional changes in adult fecundity, survival and growth of juvenile stages, and population connectivity, in order of importance, but relatively insensitive to adult growth or survival. The metapopulation concept was deemed appropriate for both Mytilus species as exchange between the subpopulations was necessary for subpopulation persistence. However, highest metapopulation growth occurred in years when a greater proportion of recruits was retained within the predominant source subpopulation. Despite differences in habitat and planktonic duration, both species exhibited similar overall metapopulation dynamics with respect to key life stages and processes. However, different peak reproductive periods in an environment of seasonal current reversals led to different regional (subpopulation) contributions to metapopulation maintenance; this result emphasizes the importance of connectivity analysis for spatial, management of coastal resources.

Fodrie, FJ, Becker BJ, Levin LA, Gruenthal K, McMillan PA.  2011.  Connectivity clues from short-term variability in settlement and geochemical tags of mytilid mussels. Journal of Sea Research. 65:141-150.   10.1016/j.seares.2010.09.001   AbstractWebsite

The use of geochemical tags in calcified structures of fish and invertebrates is an exciting tool for investigating larval population connectivity. Tag evaluation over relatively short intervals (weeks) may detect environmental and ecological variability at a temporal scale highly relevant to larval transport and settlement. We collected newly settled mussels (Mytilus californianus and M. galloprovincialis) weekly during winter/spring of 2002 along the coast of San Diego, CA, USA, at sites on the exposed coast (SIO) and in a protected coastal bay (HI), to investigate temporal patterns of geochemical tags in mussel shells. Analyses of post-settlement shell via LA-ICP-MS revealed statistically significant temporal variability for all elements we examined (Mg, Mn, Cu, Sr, Cd, Ba, Pb and U). Despite this, our ability to distinguish multielemental signatures between sites was largely conserved. Throughout our 13-week study, SIO and HI mussels could be chemically distinguished from one another in 78-87% of all cases. Settlement varied between 2 and 27 settlers grambyssus(-1) week(-1) at 510 and HI, and both sites were characterized by 2-3 weeks with "high" settlement. Geochemical tags recorded in early larval shell of newly settled mussels differed between "high" and "low" settlement weeks at both sites (MANOVA), driven by Mg and Sr at SIO (p = 0.013) and Sr, Cd, Ba and Pb at HI (p < 0.001). These data imply that shifts in larval sources or transport corridors were responsible for observed settlement variation, rather than increased larval production. In particular, increased settlement at HI was observed concurrent with the appearance of geochemical tags (e.g., elevated Cd), suggesting that those larvae were retained in upwelled water near the mouth of the bay. Such shifts may reflect short-term changes in connectivity among sites due to altered transport corridors, and influence the demography of local populations. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Neira, C, Mendoza G, Levin LA, Zirino A, Delgadillo-Hinojosa F, Porrachia M, Deheyn DD.  2011.  Macrobenthic community response to copper in Shelter Island Yacht Basin, San Diego Bay, California. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 62:701-717.   10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.01.027   AbstractWebsite

We examined Cu contamination effects on macrobenthic communities and Cu concentration in invertebrates within Shelter Island Yacht Basin, San Diego Bay, California. Results indicate that at some sites, Cu in sediment has exceeded a threshold for "self defense" mechanisms and highlight the potential negative impacts on benthic faunal communities where Cu accumulates and persists in sediments. At sites with elevated Cu levels in sediment, macrobenthic communities were not only less diverse but also their total biomass and body size (individual biomass) were reduced compared to sites with lower Cu. Cu concentration in tissue varied between species and within the same species, reflecting differing abilities to "regulate" their body load. The spatial complexity of Cu effects in a small marina such as SIYB emphasizes that sediment-quality criteria based solely on laboratory experiments should be used with caution, as they do not necessarily reflect the condition at the community and ecosystem levels. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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.

Basak, C, Rathburn AE, Perez ME, Martin JB, Kluesner JW, Levin LA, De Deckker P, Gieskes JM, Abriani M.  2009.  Carbon and oxygen isotope geochemistry of live (stained) benthic foraminifera from the Aleutian Margin and the Southern Australian Margin. Marine Micropaleontology. 70:89-101.   10.1016/j.marmicro.2008.11.002   AbstractWebsite

Comparisons of ambient bottom-water geochemistry and stable isotopic values of the tests of living (stained) calcareous benthic foraminifera from the North Pacific (on the Aleutian Margin, water depth 1988 m) and Murray Canyons group in the Southern Indian Ocean (Australian Margin, water depths 2476 m and 1634 m) provide modem environmental analogs to calibrate paleoenvironmental assessments. Consistent with the hypothesis that microhabitat preferences influence foraminiferal isotopic values, benthic foraminifera from both margins were depleted in (13)C with respect to bottom-water dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC). The carbon isotope values of deep infaunal foraminifera (Chilostomella oolina, Globobulimina pacifica) showed greater differences from estimates of those of DIC than shallow benthic foraminifera (Bulimina mexicana, Bolivinita quadrilatera, Pullenia bulloides). This study provides new isotopic and ecological information for B. quadrilatera. The mean Delta delta(13)C value, defined as foraminiferal delta(13)C values minus estimated ambient delta(13)C values from the Aleutian Margin, is 0.97 parts per thousand higher for G. pacifica than the mean from the Murray Canyon. This difference may result either from genetic or biological differences between the populations or from differences in environmental isotopic influences (such as pore water differences) that were not accounted for in the equilibrium calculations. These analyses provide calibration information for the evaluation of bottom water conditions and circulation patterns of ancient oceans based on fossil foraminiferal geochemistry. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Fodrie, FJ, Levin LA, Lucas AJ.  2009.  Use of population fitness to evaluate the nursery function of juvenile habitats. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. 385:39-49.   10.3354/meps08069   AbstractWebsite

Juveniles of many fish and invertebrate species are able to select among a diverse portfolio of nursery habitat alternatives. Environmental heterogeneity among these habitats generates variation in the vital rates of young individuals that may influence overall population dynamics. Therefore, understanding how these habitat options affect population fitness is crucial for identifying habitats that widen bottlenecks in early life histories and promote population persistence. We used cohort analyses and demographic models to explore the population-level consequences of habitat selection by juvenile California halibut Paralichthys californicus in southern California, focusing on population growth rate (lambda) as a measure of fitness. Although alternative juvenile habitats (exposed coast and coastal embayments) could contribute an approximately equal number of recruits to the adult stock, positive overall population growth (lambda > 1) depended critically on the subpopulations of juveniles that utilized coastal embayments (bays, lagoons, and estuaries). Conversely, the juvenile subpopulation along the exposed coast contributed negatively to overall population growth (lambda < 1) in 3 of the 4 years we conducted this study, due to elevated local mortality in that habitat. Life table response experiments confirmed that juvenile growth and survivorship were responsible for differences in lambda, and that nursery habitat choice could be a key contributor toward overall population fitness. Considering nurseries in a demographic source-sink context could aid conservation efforts by allowing identification or prioritization of the juvenile habitats most critical for population persistence.

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.

Moseman, SM, Levin LA, Currin C, Forder C.  2004.  Colonization, succession, and nutrition of macrobenthic assemblages in a restored wetland at Tijuana Estuary, California. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science. 60:755-770.   10.1016/j.ecss.2004.03.013   AbstractWebsite

Modes of colonization, the successional trajectory, and trophic recovery of a macrofaunal community were analyzed over 19 months in the Friendship marsh, a 20-acre restored wetland in Tijuana Estuary, California. Traditional techniques for quantifying macrofaunal communities were combined with emerging stable isotopic approaches for evaluation of trophic recovery, making comparisons with a nearby natural Spartina foliosa habitat. Life history-based predictions successfully identified major colonization modes, although most taxa employed a variety of tactics for colonizing the restored marsh. The presence of S.foliosa did not seem to affect macrofaunal colonization or succession at the scale of this study. However, soil organic matter content in the restored marsh was positively correlated with insect densities, and high initial salinities may have limited the success of early colonists. Total macrofaunal densities recovered to natural marsh levels after 14 months and diversity, measured as species richness and the Shannon index (H'), was comparable to the natural marsh by 19 months. Some compositional disparities between the natural and created communities persisted after 19 months, including lower percentages of surface-feeding polychaetes (Polydora spp.) and higher percentages of dipteran insects and turbellarians in the Friendship marsh. As surficial structural similarity of infaunal communities between the Friendship and natural habitat was achieved, isotopic analyses revealed a simultaneous trajectory towards recovery of trophic structure. Enriched delta(13)C signatures of benthic microalgae and infauna, observed in the restored marsh shortly after establishment compared to natural Spartina habitat, recovered after 19 months. However, the depletion in delta(15)N signatures of macrofauna in the Friendship marsh indicated consumption of microalgae, particularly nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria, while macroalgae and Spartina made a larger contribution to macrofaunal diets in the natural habitat. Future successional studies must continue to develop and employ novel combinations of techniques for evaluating structural and functional recovery of disturbed and created habitats. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Levin, LA, Leithold EL, Gross TF, Huggett CL, Dibacco C.  1994.  Contrasting effects of substrate mobility on infaunal assemblages inhabiting two high-energy settings on Fieberling Guyot. Journal of Marine Research. 52:489-522.   10.1357/0022240943077028   AbstractWebsite

The influence of seamount-intensified flows on the structure of infaunal assemblages was examined at two sand-covered sites located 2.3 km apart atop the summit plain of Fieberling Guyot (32-degrees 27.6'N 127-degrees 48.0'W). Both sites experience strong, tidal bottom currents with flows exceeding 20 cm/ s on a daily basis (4 mab). Estimates of shear velocity (u*) did not differ significantly between the two sites. However, differences in sediment composition and density produced different sediment transport regimes at the two sites. At Sea Pen Rim (SPR), located on the NW perimeter (635 m), sedimentary particles were composed primarily of basaltic sands that experienced negligible transport during the study period. At White Sand Swale (WSS, 580 m), a narrow valley enclosed on three sides by basalt outcrops, sediments were composed almost entirely of foraminiferal sands that moved daily. Sediment organic content and microbial abundances were similar at the two sites. Infauna (> 300 mum) had higher densities at WSS (1870/m2) than SPR (1489/m2), but lower expected species richness. Although the 2 sites shared nearly 50% of identified species, peracarid crustaceans, echinoderms, sponges, and bryozoans were proportionally more important in the stable substrates of SPR, while turbellarians, bivalves, and aplacophorans were better represented in the shifting sands of WSS. The infauna of WSS lived deeper in the sediment column (> 50% below 2 cm) than that of SPR (> 50% in the upper 1 cm), at least partly because the majority (83%) at WSS were subsurface burrowers with motile lifestyles. Tube-building and epifaunal lifestyles were more common at SPR than WSS, as were surface-deposit and filter-feeding modes. Fences and weirs were deployed at the study sites for 6.5-wk and 6-mo periods to manipulate bottom stress. Changes in faunal patterns within weirs at WSS reinforced our conjecture that contrasting sediment transport regimes explain between-site differences in community structure. Fence effects varied with deployment period and site. Topographic features on Fieberling Guyot produce heterogeneous sedimentary settings characterized by different transport regimes. Our results suggest that substrate mobility exerts primary control over infaunal community structure at the two high-energy sites.