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

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

Rabalais, NN, Diaz RJ, Levin LA, Turner RE, Gilbert D, Zhang J.  2010.  Dynamics and distribution of natural and human-caused hypoxia. Biogeosciences. 7:585-619. AbstractWebsite

Water masses can become undersaturated with oxygen when natural processes alone or in combination with anthropogenic processes produce enough organic carbon that is aerobically decomposed faster than the rate of oxygen re-aeration. The dominant natural processes usually involved are photosynthetic carbon production and microbial respiration. The re-supply rate is indirectly related to its isolation from the surface layer. Hypoxic water masses (< 2 mg L(-1), or approximately 30% saturation) can form, therefore, under 'natural' conditions, and are more likely to occur in marine systems when the water residence time is extended, water exchange and ventilation are minimal, stratification occurs, and where carbon production and export to the bottom layer are relatively high. Hypoxia has occurred through geological time and naturally occurs in oxygen minimum zones, deep basins, eastern boundary upwelling systems, and fjords. Hypoxia development and continuation in many areas of the world's coastal ocean is accelerated by human activities, especially where nutrient loading increased in the Anthropocene. This higher loading set in motion a cascading set of events related to eutrophication. The formation of hypoxic areas has been exacerbated by any combination of interactions that increase primary production and accumulation of organic carbon leading to increased respiratory demand for oxygen below a seasonal or permanent pycnocline. Nutrient loading is likely to increase further as population growth and resource intensification rises, especially with increased dependency on crops using fertilizers, burning of fossil fuels, urbanization, and waste water generation. It is likely that the occurrence and persistence of hypoxia will be even more widespread and have more impacts than presently observed. Global climate change will further complicate the causative factors in both natural and human-caused hypoxia. The likelihood of strengthened stratification alone, from increased surface water temperature as the global climate warms, is sufficient to worsen hypoxia where it currently exists and facilitate its formation in additional waters. Increased precipitation that increases freshwater discharge and flux of nutrients will result in increased primary production in the receiving waters up to a point. The interplay of increased nutrients and stratification where they occur will aggravate and accelerate hypoxia. Changes in wind fields may expand oxygen minimum zones onto more continental shelf areas. On the other hand, not all regions will experience increased precipitation, some oceanic water temperatures may decrease as currents shift, and frequency and severity of tropical storms may increase and temporarily disrupt hypoxia more often. The consequences of global warming and climate change are effectively uncontrollable at least in the near term. On the other hand, the consequences of eutrophication-induced hypoxia can be reversed if long-term, broad-scale, and persistent efforts to reduce substantial nutrient loads are developed and implemented. In the face of globally expanding hypoxia, there is a need for water and resource managers to act now to reduce nutrient loads to maintain, at least, the current status.

Neira, C, Sellanes J, Levin LA, Arntz WE.  2001.  Meiofaunal distributions on the Peru margin: relationship to oxygen and organic matter availability. Deep-Sea Research Part I-Oceanographic Research Papers. 48:2453-2472.   10.1016/s0967-0637(01)00018-8   AbstractWebsite

A quantitative study of metazoan meiofauna was carried out on bathyal sediments (305, 562, 830 and 1210 m) along a transect within and beneath the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) in the southeastern Pacific off Callao, Peru (12 degreesS). Meiobenthos densities ranged from 1517 (upper slope, middle of OMZ) to 440-548 ind. 10cm(-2) (lower slope stations, beneath the OMZ). Nematodes were the numerically dominant meiofaunal taxon at every station, followed by copepods and nauplii. Increasing bottom-water oxygen concentration and decreasing organic matter availability downslope were correlated with observed changes in meiofaunal abundance. The 300-m site, located in the middle of the OMZ, differed significantly in meiofaunal abundance, dominance, and in vertical distribution pattern from the deeper sites. At 305 m, nematodes amounted to over 99% of total meiofauna; about 70% of nematodes were found in the 2-5 cm. interval. At the deeper sites, about 50% were restricted to the top I cm. The importance of copepods and nauplii increased consistently with depth, reaching similar to 12% of the total meiofauna at the deepest site. The observation of high nematode abundances at oxygen concentrations <0.02mll(-1) supports the hypothesis that densities are enhanced by an indirect positive effect of low oxygen involving (a) reduction of predators and competitors and (b) preservation of organic matter leading to high food availability and quality. Food input and quality, represented here by chloroplastic pigment equivalents (CPE) and sedimentary labile organic compounds (protein, carbohydrates and lipids), were strongly, positively correlated with nematode abundance. By way of contrast, oxygen exhibited a strong negative correlation, overriding food availability, with abundance of other meiofauna such as copepods and nauplii. These taxa were absent at the 300-m site. The high correlation of labile organic matter (C-LOM, sum of carbon contents in lipids, proteins and carbohydrates) with CPE (Pearson's r = 0.99, p <0.01) suggests that most of the sedimentary organic material sampled was of phytodetrital origin. The fraction of sediment organic carbon potentially available to benthic. heterotrophs, measured as C-LOM/Total organic carbon, was on average 17% at all stations. Thus, a residual, refractory fraction, constitutes the major portion of organic matter at the studied bathyal sites. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.