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Thornhill, DJ, Struck TH, Ebbe B, Lee RW, Mendoza GF, Levin LA, Halanych KM.  2012.  Adaptive radiation in extremophilic Dorvilleidae (Annelida): diversification of a single colonizer or multiple independent lineages? Ecology and Evolution. 2:1958-1970.   10.1002/ece3.314   AbstractWebsite

Metazoan inhabitants of extreme environments typically evolved from forms found in less extreme habitats. Understanding the prevalence with which animals move into and ultimately thrive in extreme environments is critical to elucidating how complex life adapts to extreme conditions. Methane seep sediments along the Oregon and California margins have low oxygen and very high hydrogen sulfide levels, rendering them inhospitable to many life forms. Nonetheless, several closely related lineages of dorvilleid annelids, including members of Ophryotrocha, Parougia, and Exallopus, thrive at these sites in association with bacterial mats and vesicomyid clam beds. These organisms are ideal for examining adaptive radiations in extreme environments. Did dorvilleid annelids invade these extreme environments once and then diversify? Alternatively, did multiple independent lineages adapt to seep conditions? To address these questions, we examined the evolutionary history of methane-seep dorvilleids using 16S and Cyt b genes in an ecological context. Our results indicate that dorvilleids invaded these extreme habitats at least four times, implying preadaptation to life at seeps. Additionally, we recovered considerably more dorvilleid diversity than is currently recognized. A total of 3 major clades (designated "Ophryotrocha,""Mixed Genera" and "Parougia") and 12 terminal lineages or species were encountered. Two of these lineages represented a known species, Parougia oregonensis, whereas the remaining 10 lineages were newly discovered species. Certain lineages exhibited affinity to geography, habitat, sediment depth, and/or diet, suggesting that dorvilleids at methane seeps radiated via specialization and resource partitioning.

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.

Breitburg, DL, Salisbury J, Bernhard JM, Cai WJ, Dupont S, Doney SC, Kroeker KJ, Levin LA, Long WC, Milke LM, Miller SH, Phelan B, Passow U, Seibel BA, Todgham AE, Tarrant AM.  2015.  And on top of all that... Coping with ocean acidification in the midst of many stressors. Oceanography. 28:48-61.   10.5670/oceanog.2015.31   AbstractWebsite

Oceanic and coastal waters are acidifying due to processes dominated in the open ocean by increasing atmospheric CO2 and dominated in estuaries and some coastal waters by nutrient-fueled respiration. The patterns and severity of acidification, as well as its effects, are modified by the host of stressors related to human activities that also influence these habitats. Temperature, deoxygenation, and changes in food webs are particularly important co-stressors because they are pervasive, and both their causes and effects are often mechanistically linked to acidification. Development of a theoretical underpinning to multiple stressor research that considers physiological, ecological, and evolutionary perspectives is needed because testing all combinations of stressors and stressor intensities experimentally is impossible. Nevertheless, use of a wide variety of research approaches is a logical and promising strategy for improving understanding of acidification and its effects. Future research that focuses on spatial and temporal patterns of stressor interactions and on identifying mechanisms by which multiple stressors affect individuals, populations, and ecosystems is critical. It is also necessary to incorporate consideration of multiple stressors into management, mitigation, and adaptation to acidification and to increase public and policy recognition of the importance of addressing acidification in the context of the suite of other stressors with which it potentially interacts.

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.

Thurber, AR, Levin LA, Orphan VJ, Marlow JJ.  2012.  Archaea in metazoan diets: implications for food webs and biogeochemical cycling. ISME Journal. 6:1602-1612.   10.1038/ismej.2012.16   AbstractWebsite

Although the importance of trophic linkages, including 'top-down forcing', on energy flow and ecosystem productivity is recognized, the influence of metazoan grazing on Archaea and the biogeochemical processes that they mediate is unknown. Here, we test if: (1) Archaea provide a food source sufficient to allow metazoan fauna to complete their life cycle; (2) neutral lipid biomarkers (including crocetane) can be used to identify Archaea consumers; and (3) archaeal aggregates are a dietary source for methane seep metazoans. In the laboratory, we demonstrated that a dorvilleid polychaete, Ophryotrocha labronica, can complete its life cycle on two strains of Euryarchaeota with the same growth rate as when fed bacterial and eukaryotic food. Archaea were therefore confirmed as a digestible and nutritious food source sufficient to sustain metazoan populations. Both strains of Euryarchaeota used as food sources had unique lipids that were not incorporated into O. labronica tissues. At methane seeps, sulfate-reducing bacteria that form aggregations and live syntrophically with anaerobic-methane oxidizing Archaea contain isotopically and structurally unique fatty acids (FAs). These biomarkers were incorporated into tissues of an endolithofaunal dorvilleid polychaete species from Costa Rica (mean bulk delta C-13 = -92 +/- 4 parts per thousand; polar lipids -116 parts per thousand) documenting consumption of archaeal-bacterial aggregates. FA composition of additional soft-sediment methane seep species from Oregon and California provided evidence that consumption of archaeal-bacterial aggregates is widespread at methane seeps. This work is the first to show that Archaea are consumed by heterotrophic metazoans, a trophic process we coin as 'archivory'. The ISME Journal (2012) 6, 1602-1612; doi:10.1038/ismej.2012.16; published online 8 March 2012

Moy, LD, Levin LA.  1991.  Are Spartina marshes a replaceable resource? A functional approach to evaluation of marsh creation efforts Estuaries. 14:1-16.   10.2307/1351977   AbstractWebsite

Marsh creation has come into increasing use as a measure to mitigate loss of valuable wetlands. However, few programs have addressed the functional ecological equivalence of man-made marshes and their natural counterparts. This study addresses structural and functional interactions in a man-made and two natural marshes. This was done by integrating substrate characteristics and marsh utilization by organisms of two trophic levels. Sediment properties, infaunal community composition, and Fundulus heteroclitus marsh utilization were compared for a man-made Spartina salt marsh (between ages 1 to 3 yr) in Dills Creek, North Carolina, and adjacent natural marshes to the east and west. East natural marsh and planted marsh sediment grain-size distributions were more similar to each other than to the west natural marsh due to shared drainage systems, but sediment organic content of the planted marsh was much lower than in either natural marsh. This difference was reflected in macrofaunal composition. Natural marsh sediments were inhabited primarily by subsurface, deposit-feeding oligochaetes whereas planted marsh sediments were dominated by the tube-building, surface-deposit feeding polychaetes Streblospio benedicti and Manayunkia aestuarina. Infaunal differences were mirrored in Fundulus diets. Natural marsh diets contained more detritus and insects because oligochaetes, though abundant, were relatively inaccessible. Polychaetes and algae were major constituents of the planted marsh Fundulus diet. Though natural-marsh fish may acquire a potentially less nutritive, detritus-based diet relative to the higher animal protein diet of the planted marsh fish, Fundulus abundances were markedly lower in the planted marsh than in the natural marshes, indicating fewer fish were being supported. Lower Spartina stem densities in the planted marsh may have provided inadequate protection from predation or insufficient spawning sites for the fundulids. After three years, the planted marsh remained functionally distinct from the adjacent natural marshes. Mitigation success at Dills Creek could have been improved by increasing tidal flushing, thereby enhancing access to marine organisms and by mulching with Spartina wrack to increase sediment organic-matter content and porosity. Results from this study indicate that salt marshes should not be treated as a replaceable resource in the short term. The extreme spatial and temporal variability inherent to salt marshes make it virtually impossible to exactly replace a marsh by planting one on another site.

Davis, JLD, Levin LA, Walther SM.  2002.  Artificial armored shorelines: sites for open-coast species in a southern California bay. Marine Biology. 140:1249-1262.   10.1007/s00227-002-0779-8   AbstractWebsite

Artificial hard substrates have been used to stabilize naturally soft bay shorelines for centuries. Despite the loss of over half of the natural shoreline in many bays, little attention has been paid to the communities inhabiting armored shorelines and to the ecological implications of armoring. The goal of the present study was to examine factors affecting spatial and temporal variation of intertidal, hard-substrate biota (emergent species and fishes), with emphases on the influence of exposure, distance from the open ocean, and similarity to open-coast, hard-substrate communities. We examined community composition at eight San Diego Bay (California, USA) sites (an exposed and a protected site at four bay locations) in June and November 2000 and two open-coast sites in August 2000. At all bay sites, the shore was armored with granite boulders, a form of shoreline stabilization referred to as "riprap." Community structure was more variable spatially than temporally on the scales we studied, affected more by distance from the bay mouth and exposure to wave energy than by differences between June and November. Exposed sites near the bay mouth were more similar to natural open-coast sites, sharing about 45% of their species, than protected sites and sites farther from the mouth, which shared as few as 8%. Species richness was generally higher in exposed than protected bay sites. Species tended to occur higher in the intertidal zone at exposed than protected sites, and higher in November, when sea level was higher, than in June. Such results will be useful to shoreline managers who examine the ecological implications of hardening long stretches of coastline and may suggest ways to incorporate artificial structures into ecosystems in a more meaningful way.