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1991
Levin, LA, Huggett CL, Wishner KF.  1991.  Control of deep-sea benthic community structure by oxygen and organic-matter gradients in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Journal of Marine Research. 49:763-800.   10.1357/002224091784995756   AbstractWebsite

At boundaries of oxygen minimum zones (OMZs), bathyal faunas experience steep gradients in oxygen and organic-matter availability. The present study compares changes in microbial, meiofaunal, macrofaunal and megafaunal benthic assemblages along these gradients on Volcano 7, a 2.3-km high seamount in the eastern tropical Pacific. Faunal tolerance to dysaerobic (low oxygen) conditions varies with organism size; microbial and meiofaunal abundances are less affected than macro- and megafaunal abundances. At the exceedingly low concentrations (< 0.1 ml/1) encountered on the upper summit of Volcano 7, oxygen appears to exert primary control over abundance, composition and diversity of macrofauna, overriding other factors such as food availability and sediment grain size. When oxygen concentration is sufficient, food availability in sediments (indicated by the presence of labile material such as chlorophyll a) is highly correlated with meiofaunal and macrofaunal abundance. Four distinct physical zones were identified on Volcano 7: (1) the coarse-grained upper summit zone (730-770 m) where near-bottom oxygen concentrations were usually lowest (often < 0.1 ml/1) and organic-matter (% organic carbon and chlorophyll a) availability was high, (2) the coarse-grained lower summit (770-1000 m) where near-bottom oxygen concentrations were usually slightly higher (0.11 to 0.16 ml/1) and organic-matter availability remained high, (3) the coarse-grained flank (1000-2000 m) where oxygen concentration was intermediate (0.7-0.9 ml/1) and sediment organic-matter content was very low, and (4) the finer-grained base (2000-3500 m) where oxygen values exceeded 2.5 ml/1, sediment organic carbon was moderate, and chlorophyll a was low. Abundances of larger forms (megafauna and macrofauna) were severely reduced on the upper summit, but attained high values (2.25/m2 and 8,457/m2 respectively) just tens of meters below. The smaller forms (bacteria and meiofauna) attained peak abundances on the low-oxygen upper summit, however, abundances of harpacticoid copepods were greatly reduced on the upper and lower summit, presumably due to oxygen limitation. Macrofaunal abundance and diversity patterns along the Volcano 7 oxygen/enrichment gradient resembled those typically observed along shallow-water gradients of organic pollution. Low densities of a few soft-bodied, low-oxygen tolerant species resided on the upper summit, a high-density, low-diversity assemblage inhabited the lower summit, and low-density, high-diversity assemblages occupied the flank and base sediments. The infaunal communities on Volcano 7 support the idea that OMZ boundaries are regions of enhanced biological activity. Modern faunal distributions and biogenic structures at OMZ boundaries may be useful in reconstructing oxygenation histories of ancient marine basins.

1995
Wishner, KF, Ashjian CJ, Gelfman C, Gowing MM, Kann L, Levin LA, Mullineaux LS, Saltzman J.  1995.  Pelagic and benthic ecology of the lower interface of the Eastern Tropical Pacific oxygen minimum zone. Deep-Sea Research Part I-Oceanographic Research Papers. 42:93-115.   10.1016/0967-0637(94)00021-j   AbstractWebsite

The distributions of pelagic and benthic fauna were examined in relation to the lower boundary of the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) on and near Volcano 7, a seamount that penetrates this feature in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. Although the broad, pronounced OMZ in this region is an effective barrier for most zooplankton, zooplankton abundances, zooplankton feeding rates, and ambient suspended particulate organic carbon (POC) peaked sharply in the lower OMZ (about 740-800 m), in association with the minimum oxygen concentration and the increasing oxygen levels just below it. Zooplankton in the lower OMZ were also larger in size, and the pelagic community included some very abundant, possibly opportunistic, species. Elevated POC and scatter in the light transmission data suggested the existence of a thin, particle-rich, and carbon-rich pelagic layer at the base of the OMZ. Gut contents of planktonic detritivores implied opportunistic ingestion of bacterial aggregates, possibly from this layer. Benthic megafaunal abundances on the seamount, which extended up to 730 m, peaked at about 800 m. There was a consistent vertical progression in the depth of first occurrence of different megafaunal taxa in this depth range, similar to intertidal zonation. Although the vertical gradients of temperature, salinity, and oxygen were gradual at the lower OMZ interface (in contrast to the upper OMZ interface at the thermocline), temporal variability in oxygen levels due to internal wave-induced vertical excursions of the OMZ may produce the distinct zonation in the benthic fauna. The characteristics of the lower OMZ interface result from biological interactions with the chemical and organic matter gradients of the OMZ. Most zooplankton are probably excluded physiologically from pronounced OMZs. The zooplankton abundance peak at the lower interface of the OMZ occurs where oxygen becomes sufficiently high to permit the zooplankton to utilize the high concentrations of organic particles that have descended through the OMZ relatively unaltered because of low metazoan abundance. A similar scenario applies to megabenthic distributions. Plankton layers and a potential short food chain (bacteria to zooplankton) at OMZ interfaces suggest intense utilization and modification of organic material, localized within a thin midwater depth zone. This could be a potentially significant filter for organic material sinking to the deep-sea floor.

2000
Levin, LA, Gage JD, Martin C, Lamont PA.  2000.  Macrobenthic community structure within and beneath the oxygen minimum zone, NW Arabian Sea. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 47:189-226.   10.1016/s0967-0645(99)00103-4   AbstractWebsite

Investigations of macrobenthos were carried out within and beneath the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ, < 0.5 ml l(-1)) during Fall 1994 on the Oman margin, NW Arabian Sea. Six stations (400, 700, 850, 1000, 1250 and 3400m) were characterized with respect to macrofaunal abundance, biomass, body size, taxonomic composition, diversity and lifestyles, and the relation of these parameters to environmental conditions. The OMZ (400-1000 m) was dominated by a dense (5818-19,183 ind m(-2)), soft-bodied assemblage consisting largely (86-99%) of surface-feeding polychaetes, Spionids and cirratulids dominated at the 400- and 700-m stations, paraonids and ampharetids at the 850- and 1000-m stations. Molluscs and most crustaceans were common only below the OMZ ( greater than or equal to 1250 m); a species of the amphipod Ampelisca was abundant within the OMZ, however. Both density and biomass were elevated within the OMZ relative to stations below but body size did not differ significantly among stations. The lower OMZ boundary (0.5 ml l(-1)) was not a zone of enhanced macrofaunal standing stock, as originally hypothesized. However, abundance maxima at 700-850m may reflect an oxygen threshold (0.15-0.20 ml l(-1)) above which macrofauna take advantage of organically enriched sediments. Incidence of burrowing and subsurface-deposit feeding increased below the OMZ, Species richness (E[S(100)]), diversity (H') and evenness (J') were lower and dominance (R1D) was higher within than beneath the OMZ. Within-station (between-boxcore) faunal heterogeneity increased markedly below the OMZ. Surface sediment pigment concentrations and oxygen together explained 96-99% of the variance in measures of E[S(100)], H' and J' across the transect; grain size and % TOC did not yield significant regressions. Pigments, assumed to reflect food availability and possibly oxygen effects on organic matter preservation, were negatively correlated with species richness and evenness, and positively correlated with dominance. The reverse was true for water depth. Macrobenthic patterns of calcification and lifestyle within the Oman margin OMZ (0.13-0.3 mi l(-1)) match the dysaerobic biofacies of paleo-environmental reconstruction models. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

2001
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.