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Mullineaux, LS, Metaxas A, Beaulieu SE, Bright M, Gollner S, Grupe BM, Herrera S, Kellner JB, Levin LA, Mitarai S, Neubert MG, Thurnherr AM, Tunnicliffe V, Watanabe HK, Won YJ.  2018.  Exploring the ecology of deep-sea hydrothermal vents in a metacommunity framework. Frontiers in Marine Science. 5   10.3389/fmars.2018.00049   AbstractWebsite

Species inhabiting deep-sea hydrothermal vents are strongly influenced by the geological setting, as it provides the chemical-rich fluids supporting the food web, creates the patchwork of seafloor habitat, and generates catastrophic disturbances that can eradicate entire communities. The patches of vent habitat host a network of communities (a metacommunity) connected by dispersal of planktonic larvae. The dynamics of the metacommunity are influenced not only by birth rates, death rates and interactions of populations at the local site, but also by regional influences on dispersal from different sites. The connections to other communities provide a mechanism for dynamics at a local site to affect features of the regional biota. In this paper, we explore the challenges and potential benefits of applying metacommunity theory to vent communities, with a particular focus on effects of disturbance. We synthesize field observations to inform models and identify data gaps that need to be addressed to answer key questions including: (1) what is the influence of the magnitude and rate of disturbance on ecological attributes, such as time to extinction or resilience in ametacommunity; (2) what interactions between local and regional processes control species diversity, and (3) which communities are "hot spots" of key ecological significance. We conclude by assessing our ability to evaluate resilience of vent metacommunities to human disturbance (e.g., deep-sea mining). Although the resilience of a few highly disturbed vent systems in the eastern Pacific has been quantified, these values cannot be generalized to remote locales in the western Pacific ormid Atlantic where disturbance rates are different and information on local controls is missing.

Cook, GS, Parnell PE, Levin LA.  2014.  Population connectivity shifts at high frequency within an open-coast marine protected area network. Plos One. 9   10.1371/journal.pone.0103654   AbstractWebsite

A complete understanding of population connectivity via larval dispersal is of great value to the effective design and management of marine protected areas (MPA). However empirical estimates of larval dispersal distance, self-recruitment, and within season variability of population connectivity patterns and their influence on metapopulation structure remain rare. We used high-resolution otolith microchemistry data from the temperate reef fish Hypsypops rubicundus to explore biweekly, seasonal, and annual connectivity patterns in an open-coast MPA network. The three MPAs, spanning 46 km along the southern California coastline were connected by larval dispersal, but the magnitude and direction of connections reversed between 2008 and 2009. Self-recruitment, i.e. spawning, dispersal, and settlement to the same location, was observed at two locations, one of which is a MPA. Self-recruitment to this MPA ranged from 50-84%; within the entire 60 km study region, self-recruitment accounted for 45% of all individuals settling to study reefs. On biweekly time scales we observed directional variability in alongshore current data and larval dispersal trajectories; if viewed in isolation these data suggest the system behaves as a source-sink metapopulation. However aggregate biweekly data over two years reveal a reef network in which H. rubicundus behaves more like a well-mixed metapopulation. As one of the few empirical studies of population connectivity within a temperate open coast reef network, this work can inform the MPA design process, implementation of ecosystem based management plans, and facilitate conservation decisions.

Frieder, CA, Gonzalez JP, Levin LA.  2014.  Uranium in larval shells as a barometer of molluscan ocean acidification exposure. Environmental Science & Technology. 48:6401-6408.   10.1021/es500514j   AbstractWebsite

As the ocean undergoes acidification, marine organisms will become increasingly exposed to reduced pH, yet variability in many coastal settings complicates our ability to accurately estimate pH exposure for those organisms that are difficult to track. Here we present shell-based geochemical proxies that reflect pH exposure from laboratory and field settings in larvae of the mussels Mytilus californianus and M. galloprovincialis. Laboratory-based proxies were generated from shells precipitated at pH 7.51 to 8.04. U/Ca, Sr/Ca, and multielemental signatures represented as principal components varied with pH for both species. Of these, U/Ca was the best predictor of pH and did not vary with larval size, with semidiumal pH fluctuations, or with oxygen concentration. Field applications of U/Ca were tested with mussel larvae reared in situ at both known and unknown conditions. Larval shells precipitated in a region of greater upwelling had higher U/Ca, and these U/Ca values corresponded well with the laboratory-derived U/Ca-pH proxy. Retention of the larval shell after settlement in molluscs allows use of this geochemical proxy to assess ocean acidification effects on marine populations.

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.

Carson, HS, Lopez-Duarte PC, Rasmussen L, Wang DX, Levin LA.  2010.  Reproductive timing alters population connectivity in marine metapopulations. Current Biology. 20:1926-1931.   10.1016/j.cub.2010.09.057   AbstractWebsite

Populations of most marine organisms are connected by the dispersal of larval stages, with profound implications for marine conservation [1]. Because of the extreme effort needed to empirically measure larval exchange, multispecies conservation efforts must estimate connectivity by extrapolation using taxonomy, adult distribution, life history, behavior, or phenology. Using a 6-year record of connectivity realized through trace-elemental fingerprinting of larval shells, we document the seasonal and interannual variability of larval exchange for two congeneric mussel species with overlapping but distinct distribution, life history, and reproduction timing. We reveal consistent autumn poleward movement and spring equatorward movement for both species, coincident with near-shore surface currents. However, because the major reproductive seasons differ, the dominant source-sink dynamics of these two congeneric species are nearly opposite. Consideration of present and future reproductive timing as altered by climate change is crucial to marine connectivity and conservation, especially for the numerous coastal areas subject to seasonal current reversals.

Becker, BJ, Levin LA, Fodrie FJ, McMillan PA.  2007.  Complex larval connectivity patterns among marine invertebrate populations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 104:3267-3272.   10.1073/pnas.0611651104   AbstractWebsite

Based on the belief that marine larvae, which can spend days to months in the planktonic stage, could be transported considerable distances by ocean currents, it has long been assumed that populations of coastal species with a planktonic larval stage are demographically open and highly "connected." Such assumptions about the connectivity of coastal populations govern approaches to managing marine resources and shape our fundamental understanding of population dynamics and evolution, yet are rarely tested directly due to the small size and high mortality of marine larvae in a physically complex environment. Here, we document a successful application of elemental fingerprinting as a tracking tool to determine sources of settled invertebrates and show that coastal mussel larvae, previously thought to be highly dispersed, can be retained within 20-30 km of their natal origin. We compare two closely related and co-occurring species, Mytilus californianus and Mytilus galloprovincialis, and determine that, despite expected similarities, they exhibit substantially different connectivity patterns. Our use of an in situ larval culturing technique overcomes the previous challenge of applying microchemical tracking methods to species with completely planktonic development. The exchange of larvae and resulting connectivities among marine populations have fundamental consequences for the evolution and ecology of species and for the management of coastal resources.

Becker, BJ, Fodrie FJ, McMillan PA, Levin LA.  2005.  Spatial and temporal variation in trace elemental fingerprints of mytilid mussel shells: A precursor to invertebrate larval tracking. Limnology and Oceanography. 50:48-61. AbstractWebsite

Elements incorporated into developing hard parts of planktonic larvae record the environmental conditions experienced during growth. These chemical signatures, termed elemental fingerprints, potentially allow for reconstruction of locations of larvae. Here, we have demonstrated for the first time the feasibility of this approach for bivalve shells. We have determined the spatial scale over which we are able to discriminate chemical signatures in mussels in southern California and characterized the temporal stability of these signals. Early settlers of Mytilus californianus and Mytilus galloprovincialis were collected from eight sites in southern California. Shells were analyzed for nine isotopes using laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). We discriminated among mussels collected in two bays and the open coast using Mn, Pb, and Ba shell concentrations. Shell concentrations of Pb and Sr were sufficiently different to discriminate between mussels from the northern and southern regions of the open coast, each representing approximately 20 km of coastline. These signals were relatively stable on monthly and weekly time scales. These results indicate that trace elemental fingerprinting of shell material is a promising technique to track bivalve larvae moving between bays and the open coast or over along-shore scales on the order of 20 km. Identification of spatial variation in elemental fingerprints that is stable over time represents a crucial step in enhancing our ability to understand larval transport and population connectivity in invertebrates.

Levin, LA, Talley D, Thayer G.  1996.  Succession of macrobenthos in a created salt marsh. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. 141:67-82.   10.3354/meps141067   AbstractWebsite

Early succession of macrofauna was examined over several years in a created Spartina alterniflora marsh located on the Newport River Estuary, North Carolina, USA. Epifauna and infaunal community structure and composition were compared at 2 elevations in plots planted with S. alterniflora, plots left bare of vegetation and vegetated plots in a nearby natural S, alterniflora marsh. No significant successional differences were observed between vegetated and unvegetated sediments in the created marsh. The earliest stages of colonization involved recruitment by opportunistic estuarine polychaetes: Streblospio benedicti, Capitella spp, and Polydora cornuta. Capitella spp. dominated the macrofauna a month after marsh creation, but thereafter S. benedicti was the most abundant species. During the first few years, the artificial marsh retained early successional characteristics, with S, benedicti, Capitella spp. and turbellarians accounting for 75 to 95% of the total macrofauna. Fiddler crabs were common epifaunal colonists. After 4 yr, species richness increased and dominance by the early colonists diminished. Taxa lacking planktonic larvae and swimming adults were particularly slow to recover in the created marsh, but accounted for over 25% of the infauna by Year 4. Oligochaetes, which comprised over 50% of the fauna in the natural marsh, remained absent or rare in the artificial system throughout the study. Infaunal recovery appears to be more rapid in lower than upper marsh elevations. Although macrofaunal densities and species richness of sediments in the lower created marsh came to resemble those of the natural marsh within 6 mo, species composition and faunal feeding modes did not. These observations suggest there may be significant functional differences between young artificial marshes and older natural marshes. Consideration of the timing of marsh creation, marsh configuration, continuity with natural marshes, seeding of taxa with poor dispersal, and attention to species habitat requirements are recommended to accelerate infaunal colonization of created Spartina marshes.

Levin, LA, Dibacco C.  1995.  Influence of sediment transport on short-term recolonization by seamount infauna. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. 123:163-175.   10.3354/meps123163   AbstractWebsite

Rates and mechanisms of infaunal recolonization in contrasting sediment transport regimes were examined by deploying hydrodynamically unbiased colonization trays at 2 sites similar to 2 km apart on the flat summit plain of Fieberling Guyot in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Both study sites experienced strong bottom currents and high shear velocity (u* exceeding 1.0 cm s(-1) daily). Macrofaunal recolonization of defaunated sediments on Fieberling Guyot was slow relative to observations in shallow-water sediments, but rapid compared to other unenriched deep-sea treatments. Microbial colonization was slower but macrofaunal colonization was faster at White Sand Swale (WSS, 585 m), where rippled foraminiferal sands migrate daily, than at Sea Pen Rim (SPR, 635 m), where the basaltic sands move infrequently. Total densities of macrofaunal colonizers at WSS were 31 and 75% of ambient after 7 wk and 6.4 mo, respectively; at SPR they were 6 and 49% of ambient, respectively. Over 3/4 of the colonists were polychaetes (predominantly hesionids and dorvilleids) and aplacophoran molluscs. Species richness of colonizers was comparable at SPR and WSS and did not differ substantially from ambient. Most of the species (91%) and individuals (95%) recovered in colonization trays were taxa present in background cores. However, only 25% of the taxa colonizing tray sediments occurred in trays at both WSS and SPR. Sessile species, carnivores and surface feeders were initially slow to appear in colonization trays, but after 6.4 mo, colonizer feeding modes, life habits and mobility patterns mirrored those in ambient sediments at WSS and SPR. Defaunated sediments were colonized by larvae, juveniles and adults at both sites. These experiments provide the first observations of infaunal colonization on seamounts, and in deep, high-energy settings. Passive bedload transport appears to be a dominant colonization mechanism in unstable foraminiferal sands at WSS. Based on the rapid recovery of infauna in trays and low diversity at WSS, we infer that disturbance is a natural feature of this site and that the ambient fauna of WSS retains features of early succession. Infaunal colonization is slower in the stable substrate at SPR, where physical disturbance may occur much less frequently.