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Levin, LA.  1986.  The influence of tides on larval availability in shallow waters overlying a mudflat. Bulletin of Marine Science. 39:224-233. AbstractWebsite

The plankton overlying the Kendall-Frost mudflat (Mission Bay, California) was sampled over four separate 12-h tidal cycles, two during the day and two at night, in order to identify short-term, tidally-induced variations in meroplankton abundance. In daytime samples larvae of four polychaete species and bivalve veligers exhibited a distinct bimodal abundance pattern, suggesting oscillation of a large patch of larvae in the back of Mission Bay. Physical data collected previously support this hypothesis and provide evidence for retention of larvae on or near the adult habitat. Nocturnal samples yielded less consistent, species-specific abundance patterns. Several polychaetes, bivalves and ghost shrimp exhibited peak larval abundances at dusk high tide, brachyuran zoea were released just after high tide and one polychaete exhibited a bimodal pattern similar to the daytime samples. Amphipods and harpacticoid copepods peaked in abundance at low tide. No ontogenetic differences in temporal distributions of precompetent and competent polychaete larvae were observed during the study. The mudflat meroplankton is not a well-mixed soup. Tenfold variations in larval abundance, documented for the polychaete species on an annual and seasonal basis (Levin, 1984), can also be observed at one site within a single tidal cycle. Attempts to estimate larval availability should incorporate short-term tidal and diel variability into the sampling design.

Levin, LA, Talley T.  2000.  Influences of vegetation and abiotic environmental factors on salt marsh benthos. Concepts and controversies in tidal marsh ecology. ( Weinstein M, Kreeger D, Eds.).:661-708., Dordrecht ; Boston: Kluwer Academic Abstract
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Baco, AR, Rowden AA, Levin LA, Smith CR, Bowden DA.  2010.  Initial characterization of cold seep faunal communities on the New Zealand Hikurangi margin. Marine Geology. 272:251-259.   10.1016/j.margeo.2009.06.015   AbstractWebsite

Cold-seep communities have been known from the North Atlantic and North Pacific for more than 20 years, but are only now being explored in the Southern Hemisphere While fisheries bycatch had suggested the presence of cold seeps on the New Zealand margin, the biodiversity and distribution of these communities remained unknown. Explorations using towed cameras and direct sampling gear revealed that cold seep sites are abundant along the New Zealand Hikurangi margin Initial characterization of the faunal communities at 8 of these sites indicates a fauna that is associated with particular sub-habitats but which varies in abundance between sites Community composition is typical, at higher taxonomic levels, of cold seep communities in other regions The dominant. symbiont-bearing taxa include siboglinid (tube) worms, vesicomyid clams and bathymodiolin mussels At the species level, much of the seep-associated fauna identified so far appears either to be new to science, or endemic to New Zealand seeps, suggesting the region may represent a new biogeographic province for cold-seep fauna Some overlap at the species and genus level is also indicated between the sampled seep communities and the fauna of hydrothermal vents on the Kermadec Arc in the region. Further taxonomic and genetic identifications of fauna from this study will allow us to fully test the levels of species overlap with other New Zealand chemosynthetic ecosystems as well as with other cold seep sites worldwide These apparently novel communities exhibit evidence of disturbance from a deep bottom-trawl fishery and appear to be threatened along the entire New Zealand margin. As bottom fisheries, mining, and fossil-fuel exploitation move into deeper waters, seep communities may be endangered worldwide, necessitating the initiation of conservation efforts even as new seep ecosystems are discovered and explored. Our findings highlight the unique nature of anthropogenic impacts in the deep-sea. in which reservoirs of biodiversity can be impacted long before they are even known. (C) 2009 Elsevier B V All rights reserved

Levin, LA.  1991.  Interactions between metazoans and large, agglutinating protozoans: implications for the community structure of deep-sea benthos. American Zoologist. 31:886-900. AbstractWebsite

Large, agglutinating protozoans belonging to the Foraminiferida (suborder Astrorhizina) and the Xenophyophorea are conspicuous, often dominant faunal elements in the deep sea. A review of known and suspected interactions between these forms and metazoans reveals a potentially significant role for the protozoans in structuring deep-sea metazoan assemblages. Direct interactions include provision to metazoans of (a) hard or stable substratum, (b) refuge from predators or physical disturbance, and (c) access to enhanced dietary resources. In some instances, rhizopod tests may provide a nursery function. Xenophyophore modification of flow regimes, particle flux, bottom skin friction and sediment characteristics appear likely and are believed to account for altered composition and abundance of meiofauna and macrofauna in the vicinity of rhizopod tests. Some analogous interactions are observed between metazoans and biogenic sediment structures in shallow water. However, metazoan-rhizopod associations are hypothesized to be more highly developed and complex in the deep sea than are comparable shallow-water associations, due to rhizopod abilities to enhance scarce food resources and to low rates of disturbance in much of the deep sea. Agglutinating rhizopods appear to be a significant source of heterogeneity on the deep-sea floor and large tests often represent 'hotspots' of metazoan activity. As such, they are hypothesized to have contributed to the origin and maintenance of metazoan diversity in the deep sea by providing distinct microenvironments in which species can specialize.

Levin, LA.  1982.  Interference interactions among tube-dwelling polychaetes in a dense infaunal assemblage. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 65:107-119.   10.1016/0022-0981(82)90039-9   AbstractWebsite

Interactions involving contact between the feeding organs of the tube building polychaetes Pseudopolydora paucibranchiata Okuda, Streblospio benedicti Webster, and Fabricia limnicola Hartman were observed through a dissecting microscope and quantified for frequency of occurrence and effects on foraging time and withdrawal. These surface feeding species form a dense intertidal assemblage ( > 100000 individuals · m−2) and can be readily transferred to the laboratory and observed in undisturbed sediment cores. Interspecific contact with Pseudopolydora often resulted in withdrawal and consequently a 4 to 7% loss of foraging time for individuals of other species, while intraspecific interactions among Pseudopolydora did so rarely. Larger individuals of all three species experience more interaction. The probability and duration of withdrawal due to contact with Pseudopolydora is size dependent in Fabricia and Streblospio: juvenile Fabricia and adult Streblospio show the greatest interference. The observation that Pseudopolydora interferes with individuals of other species more than with conspecifics contradicts the small-scale dispersion of these species as well as previous reports of interference behavior. A possible explanation is the relatively recent coexistence of these three species, two of which were introduced to the eastern Pacific since 1900.

Levin, LA, Neira C, Grosholz ED.  2006.  Invasive cordgrass modifies wetland trophic function. Ecology. 87:419-432.   10.1890/04-1752   AbstractWebsite

Vascular plants strongly control belowground environments in most ecosystems. Invasion by vascular plants in coastal wetlands, and by cordgrasses (Spartina spp.) in particular, are increasing in incidence globally, with dramatic ecosystem-level consequences. We examined the trophic consequences of' invasion by a Spartina hybrid (S. alterniflora X S. foliosa) in San Francisco Bay (USA) by documenting differences in biomass and trophic structure of benthic communities between sediments invaded by Spartina and uninvaded sediments. We found the invaded system shifted from all algae-bascd to a detritus-based food web. We then tested for a relationship between diet and tolerance to invasion, hypothesizing that species that consume Spartina detritus are more likely to inhabit invaded sediments than those that consume surface algae. Infaunal diets were initially examined with natural abundance stable isotope analyses and application of mixing models, but these yielded an ambiguous picture of food sources. Therefore, we conducted isotopic enrichment experiments by providing N-15-labeled Spartina detritus both on and below the sediment surface in areas that either contained Spartina or were unvegetated. Capitellid and nereid polychaetes, and oligochaetes, groups shown to persist following Spartina invasion of San Francisco Bay tidal flats, took up N-15 from labeled native and invasive Spartina detritus. In contrast, We found that amphipods, bivalves, and other taxa less tolerant to invasion consumed primarily surficial algae, based oil C-13 enrichment experiments. Habitat (Spartina vs. unvegetated patches) and location of' detritus (on or within sediments) did not affect N-15 uptake from cletritus. Our investigations support a "trophic shift" model for ecosystem response to wetland plant invasion and preview loss of key trophic support for fishes and migratory birds by shifting dominance to species not widely consumed by species at higher trophic levels.

Wishner, K, Levin L, Gowing M, Mullineaux L.  1990.  Involvement of the oxygen minimum in benthic zonation on a deep seamount. Nature. 346:57-59.   10.1038/346057a0   AbstractWebsite

Low oxygen concentration in the seawater column reduces the abundance of midwater consumer populations1,2, which can enhance the supply of undegraded organic matter reaching the benthos. Low oxygen concentration in the water at the bottom can exclude most tolerant species from benthic habitats3–5. The interception of the seafloor with pronounced oxygen-minimum zones can produce steep gradients in benthic assemblages. We now present evidence for this interaction on Volcano 7, an oceanic seamount penetrating the oxygen-minimum zone in the eastern tropical Pacific. Submersible observations revealed only a few benthic species at the summit (730–750 m), where oxygen levels were lowest. Just tens of metres below, megafaunal and macrofaunal abundances were extremely high. Sediment organic carbon, a benthic food indicator, was unusually high. We hypothesize that a dynamic low-oxygen interface physiologically restricts benthos on the upper summit, that the enriched sediment is a result of reduced consumption and degradation of sinking material in the oxygen-minimum zone, and that this high benthic food level supports the unusually high benthic abundance. Sharp benthic zonation associated with oxygen concentrations may also be preserved in the palaeoceanographic record4,6.

Levin, LA, Michener RH.  2002.  Isotopic evidence for chemosynthesis-based nutrition of macrobenthos: The lightness of being at Pacific methane seeps. Limnology and Oceanography. 47:1336-1345. AbstractWebsite

The importance of chemosynthetic nutritional pathways was examined for macrofaunal invertebrates (>300 mum) from methane seeps in the Gulf of Alaska (4,413-4,443 m), on the Oregon margin (590 m), and on the northern California slope [Eel River margin] (520 m) by use of natural abundance stable isotopic data. Seep macrofauna exhibited lighter delta(13)C and delta(15)N values than those in nonseep sediments, but isotopic signatures varied among seep sites. Macrofaunal isotopic signatures indicated chemosynthetically fixed carbon sources with a significant contribution from methane-derived carbon (MDC) in macrofauna from sediments of pogonophoran fields (average delta(13)C, -46.44parts per thousand, 32%-51% MDC) and Calyptogena phaseoliformis beds (average delta(13)C, -40.89parts per thousand, 12%-40% MDC) in the Gulf of Alaska and in microbial mat sediments on the Oregon margin (average delta(13)C, -43.80parts per thousand, 20%-44% MDC). Lesser influence of MDC was noted in macrofauna from sediments of Calyptogena pacifica beds on the Oregon (average delta(13)C, -33.38parts per thousand, 0%-27% MDC) and California (delta(13)C, -25.10parts per thousand, 0%-22% MDC) margins and from California microbial mat sediments (delta(13)C, -22.23%o, 0%-5% MDC). Although most macrofauna appeared to be heterotrophic, light delta(15)N and delta(13)C values together provided evidence for chemoautotrophic symbioses in selected taxa. Carbon isotopic signatures were consistent with consumption of methane-oxidizing archaea by some dorvilleid polychaetes (delta(13)C, -90.62parts per thousand and -73.80parts per thousand) and with grazing on filamentous sulfur bacteria by gastropods and polychaetes from the Oregon and California seeps. The importance of chemosynthetic trophic pathways varies regionally and among microhabitats, taxonomic groups, and feeding guilds.

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Levin, LA.  1984.  Life history and dispersal patterns in a dense infaunal polychaete assemblage: community structure and response to disturbance. Ecology. 65:1185-1200.   10.2307/1938326   AbstractWebsite

The effects of differing life histories on the dynamics of dispersal, recruitment,and population maintenance were investigated for a dense infaunal polychaete assemblage on the Kendall-Frost mudflat in Mission Bay, California. Polychaete life history features provided the framework for investigations of small-scale dispersal mechanisms, infaunal response to disturbance, and the spatial and temporal predictability of species' abundances. Field and laboratory studies revealed that Rhynchospio arenincola Hartman, Streblospio benedicti Webster, Exogone lourei Hartman, Fabricia limnicola Hartman, and Capitella spp. shared many life history traits which limited the range of dispersal. These included small adult size, brood protection, small brood size, and planktonic larval stages which were reduced or absent. Pseudopolydora paucibranchiata Okuda, and Polydora ligni Webster exhibited initial brood protection but had larger brood sizes and longer lived larvae. Small-scale dispersal was examined by studying patterns of larval availability, recruitment into settling cartons, and colonization of defaunated sediments. The role of dispersal in response to disturbance was examined for two levels of perturbation. Small-scale disturbance, commonly generated on the mudflat by ray foraging and human digging, was studied by artificially defaunating small (0.4-m^2) sediment patches. A severe storm and consequent raw sewage spill created an episodic large-scale perturbation in the middle year of the 3-yr study. Analyses of species' responses revealed colonization ability at recruitment to be distinct from dispersal (migratory) ability. Rates and mechanisms of colonization were governed by larval development, settlement, and mobility patterns and varied with the scale of perturbation. For R. Arenincola, S. benedicti, E. Lourei, and F. Limnicola, factors such as brood protection, reduced planktonic larval phases, and postlarval movements, particularly by brooding adults, confer small-scale dispersal abilities which permit rapid colonization of disturbed patches and result in maintenance of high infaunal densities (>200,000 individuals/m^2). P. Paucibranchiata and P. Ligni possess long-lived larvae whose planktonic abundances are highly seasonal and variable from year to year. The timing of disturbance must coincide with periods of peak larval availability for successful colonization by these species. In general, the annual life cycles and flexible small-scale mobilities of most species enable persistence in the face of frequent fine-grained disturbance.

Fodrie, FJ, Levin LA.  2008.  Linking juvenile habitat utilization to population dynamics of California halibut. Limnology and Oceanography. 53:799-812.   10.4319/lo.2008.53.2.0799   AbstractWebsite

We investigated the nursery role of four coastal ecosystems for the California halibut (Paralichthys californicus) using the following metrics: (1) contribution in producing the fish that advance to older age classes, (2) connectivity of coastal systems resulting from migration of fish from juvenile to subadult habitats, and (3) effect of nursery habitat usage and availability on subadult population size, specifically evaluating the concentration hypothesis. Potential nurseries were grouped using a robust classification scheme that segregated exposed, bay, lagoon, and estuarine environments. Assignment of nursery origins for individual subadult fish via elemental fingerprinting indicated that exposed coasts, bays, lagoons, and estuaries contributed 31%, 65%, 1%, and 3% of advancing juvenile halibut during 2003, versus 49%, 33%, 16%, and 2% during 2004, respectively. These results were remarkably similar to "expected'' nursery contributions derived from field surveys, suggesting that in this system juvenile distributions were a good indicator of unit-area productivity of juvenile habitats and that density-dependent mechanisms during the juvenile phase did not regulate recruitment pulses. Elemental fingerprinting also demonstrated that individuals egressing from bays did not migrate far from their nursery origins (, 10 km), resulting in reduced connectivity along the 110-km study region over the timescale of approximately one generation. Consequently, we observed considerably higher subadult densities at sites near large bays, while populations distant from large bays appeared to be more influenced by nursery habitat limitation. Over large (similar to 100 km) scales, the location and availability of nursery habitat alternatives had significant effects on the population dynamics of an important member of the ichthyofaunal community of southern California.

Jeffreys, RM, Levin LA, Lamont PA, Woulds C, Whitcraft CR, Mendoza GF, Wolff GA, Cowie GL.  2012.  Living on the edge: single-species dominance at the Pakistan oxygen minimum zone boundary. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 470:79-99.   10.3354/meps10019   AbstractWebsite

Oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) are naturally occurring, low-oxygen water masses that create hypoxic conditions where they impinge on the seafloor. Their lower boundaries are characterised by elevated densities of hypoxia-tolerant fauna and an abundant food supply. The polychaete Linopherus sp. nov. (Amphinomidae) is the dominant taxon at the Pakistan margin (PM) lower OMZ, at near suboxic dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations of 5 to 8 µM. We explored the response of Linopherus sp. nov. to gradients in oxygen and organic matter (OM) availability from depths of 700 to 1100 m during the inter- and late monsoon periods. Linopherus sp. nov. was present from 800 to 1000 m, and highest densities were found at 850 m. Population size structuring was evident and smaller individuals were present at depths of lowest DO concentrations. Linopherus sp. nov. showed morphological adaptation to low DO, and respiratory surface areas were significantly larger in worms at sites of lowest DO concentrations. Stable carbon isotopes (δ13C) revealed that Linopherus sp. nov. feeds mainly on sedimentary OM while enriched δ15N values suggest that Linopherus sp. nov. also utilises predation as a foraging strategy. Lipid biomarkers indicate an omnivorous lifestyle, in which Linopherus sp. nov. uses phytodetrital, bacterial and invertebrate/carrion food sources. Pulse-chase experiments demonstrated that Linopherus sp. nov. consumes phytodetritus and contributes significantly to OM processing, potentially altering OM quality and thus the availability of food resources to the benthic community. Severe oxygen stress leads to single-species dominance, which in turn simplifies macrofaunal ecosystems and thus reduces trophic complexity.

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Hunter, WR, Levin LA, Kitazato H, Witte U.  2012.  Macrobenthic assemblage structure and organismal stoichiometry control faunal processing of particulate organic carbon and nitrogen in oxygen minimum zone sediments. Biogeosciences. 9:993-1006.   10.5194/bg-9-993-2012   AbstractWebsite

The Arabian Sea oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) impinges on the western Indian continental margin between 150 and 1500 m, causing gradients in oxygen availability and sediment geochemistry at the sea floor. Oxygen availability and sediment geochemistry are important factors structuring macrofaunal assemblages in marine sediments. However, relationships between macrofaunal assemblage structure and sea-floor carbon and nitrogen cycling are poorly understood. We conducted in situ C-13:N-15 tracer experiments in the OMZ core (540 m [O-2] = 0.35 mu mol l(-1)) and lower OMZ boundary (800-1100 m, [O-2] = 2.2-15.0 mu mol l(-1)) to investigate how macrofaunal assemblage structure, affected by different oxygen levels, and C:N coupling influence the fate of particulate organic matter. No macrofauna were present in the OMZ core. Within the OMZ boundary, relatively high abundance and biomass resulted in the highest macrofaunal assimilation of particulate organic carbon (POC) and nitrogen (PON) at the lower oxygen 800 m stations ([O-2] = 2.2-2.36 mu mol l(-1)). At these stations the numerically dominant cirratulid polychaetes exhibited greatest POC and PON uptake. By contrast, at the higher oxygen 1100 m station ([O-2] = 15.0 mu mol l(-1)) macrofaunal C and N assimilation was lower, with POC assimilation dominated by one large solitary ascidian. Macrofaunal POC and PON assimilation were influenced by changes in oxygen availability, and significantly correlated to differences in macrofaunal assemblage structure between stations. However, macrofaunal feeding responses were ultimately characterised by preferential organic nitrogen assimilation, relative to their internal C:N budgets.

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, 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.

Gallardo, VA, Palma M, Carrasco FD, Gutierrez D, Levin LA, Canete JI.  2004.  Macrobenthic zonation caused by the oxygen minimum zone on the shelf and slope off central Chile. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 51:2475-2490.   10.1016/j.dsr2.2004.07.028   AbstractWebsite

The relationship between macrobenthic (greater than or equal to 300 mum) zonation and the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ: O(2) < 0.5 ml L(-1)) was studied in shelf and slope sediments (122-840 m depth) off Concepcion Bay, central Chile. Four study sites were sampled during March-April 1999 for abiotic factors, macrofaunal density, biomass, mean individual size, and diversity. Within the OMZ (122-206 m), the macrofaunal density was high (16,478-21,381 individuals m(-2)) and 69-89% of the organisms were soft-bodied. Density was highest (21,381 individuals m(-2)), biomass lowest (16.95 g wet weight m-2), and individual size smallest (0.07 mg C individuals) at the shelf break site (206 m). Polychaete worms made up 71% of the total abundance, crustaceans 16%, and mollusks only 2%. Total abundance beneath the OMZ (mid-slope site, similar to840 m) was 49% crustaceans and 43% polychaetes. Although existing literature originally led to the hypothesis that both diversity and biomass within the OMZ would be lower than beneath the OMZ, in the present study this was only true for diversity. Biomass distribution, on the other hand, was concave along the depth gradient; the highest values were near the upper edge of (122 m) and beneath (840 m) the OMZ. Indices of the macrofaunal community structure varied in relation to bottom-water oxygen concentration, chlorophyll-alpha, phaeopigments, and sulfide concentration, but not in relation to grain size, C, N, mud, porosity, redox potential, a bottom-water temperature. (C) 2004 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Levin, LA, Mendoza GF, Konotchick T, Lee R.  2009.  Macrobenthos community structure and trophic relationships within active and inactive Pacific hydrothermal sediments. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 56:1632-1648.   10.1016/j.dsr2.2009.05.010   AbstractWebsite

Hydrothermal fluids passing through sediments create a habitat hypothesized to influence the community structure of infaunal macrobenthos. Here we characterize the density, biomass, species composition, diversity, distributions, lifestyle, and nutritional sources of macroinfauna in hydrothermal sediments in NE and SW Pacific settings, and draw comparisons in search of faunal attributes characteristic of this habitat. There is increasing likelihood that seafloor massive sulfide deposits, associated with active and inactive hydrothermal venting, will be mined commercially. This creates a growing imperative for a more thorough understanding of the structure, dynamics, and resilience of the associated sediment faunas, and has stimulated the research presented here. Macrobenthic assemblages were studied at Manus Basin (1430-1634 m, Papua New Guinea [PNG]) as a function of location (South Su vs. Solwara 1), and hydrothermal activity (active vs. inactive), and at Middle Valley (2406-2411 m, near Juan de Fuca Ridge) as a function of habitat (active clam bed, microbial mat, hot mud, inactive background sediment). The studies conducted in PNG formed part of the environmental impact assessment work for the Solwara 1 Project of Nautilus Minerals Niugini Limited. We hypothesized that hydrothermally active sites should support (a) higher densities and biomass, (b) greater dominance and lower diversity, (c) a higher fraction of deposit feeders, and (d) greater isotopic evidence for chemosynthetic food sources than inactive sites. Manus Basin macrofauna generally had low density (<1000ind.m(-2)) and low biomass (0.1-1.07gm(-2)), except for the South Su active site, which had higher density (3494ind.m(-2)) and biomass (11.94gm(-2)), greater dominance (R1D=76%), lower diversity and more spatial (between-core) homogeneity than the Solwara 1 and South Su inactive sites. Dominant taxa at Manus Basin were Spionidae (Prionospio sp.) in active sediments, and tanaids and deposit-feeding nuculanoid bivalves in active and inactive sediments. At Middle Valley, hot mud sediments supported few animals (1011 ind m(-2)) and low biomass (1.34g m(-2)), while active clam bed sediments supported a high-density (19,984indm(-2)), high-biomass (4.46gm(-2)), low-diversity assemblage comprised of largely orbiniid and syllid polychaetes. Microbial mat sediments had the most diverse assemblage (mainly orbiniid, syllid, dorvilleid, and ampharetid polychaetes) with intermediate densities (8191 ind m(-2)) and high biomass (4.23 g m(-2)). Fauna at both Manus Basin active sites had heavy delta(13)C signatures (-17 parts per thousand to -13 parts per thousand) indicative of chemosynthetic, TCA-cycle microbes at the base of the food chain. In contrast, photosynthesis and sulfide oxidation appear to fuel most of the fauna at Manus Basin inactive sites (delta(13)C = -29 parts per thousand to -20 parts per thousand) and Middle Valley active clam beds and microbial mats (delta(13)C = -36 parts per thousand to -20 parts per thousand). The two hydrothermal regions, located at opposite ends of the Pacific Ocean, supported different habitats, sharing few taxa at the generic or family level, but both exhibited elevated infaunal density and high dominance at selected sites. Subsurface-deposit feeding and bacterivory were prevalent feeding modes. Both the Manus Basin and Middle Valley assemblages exhibit significant within-region heterogeneity, apparently conferred by variations in hydrothermal activity and associaed biogenic habitats. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Levin, LA, Talley TS, Hewitt J.  1998.  Macrobenthos of Spartina foliosa (Pacific cordgrass) salt marshes in southern California: Community structure and comparison to a Pacific mudflat and a Spartina alterniflora (Atlantic smooth cordgrass) marsh. Estuaries. 21:129-144.   10.2307/1352552   AbstractWebsite

Environmental attributes (vegetation and sediment properties) of and macrofaunal community structure in sediments of five southern California Spartina foliosa marshes (San Diego Bay, Mission Bay, Upper Newport Bay, Bolsa Chica Lagoon, and Anaheim Bay) were examined during October 1994. Macrofaunal densities in Pacific S. foliosa marshes (avg. 122,268 indiv. m(-2) > 300 mu m) were 3 to 10 times higher than observed in Atlantic S. alterniflora and S. anglica marshes. The macrofauna of S. foliosa marshes was composed mainly of enchytraeid, naidid, and tubificid oligochaetes (66%), with the enchytraeids dominant at all sites except Bolsa Chica Lagoon. Polychaetes, insects, and peracarid crustaceans accounted for most of the remaining fauna. Multivariate analyses indicated greatest faunal similarity between the two southernmost marshes (Mission Bay and San Diego Bay), and between Anaheim and Newport Bay marshes, with Bolsa Chica Lagoon exhibiting a distinct assemblage. There were strong positive associations of faunal abundance and composition with percent organic matter and percent open area, and negative associations with percent sand and dry weight of algae. For the vegetated marsh in Mission Bay, faunal comparisons were made with an adjacent mudflat and with a S. alterniflora marsh in North Carolina, USA. The unvegetated mudflat exhibited similar macrofaunal densities but higher species richness than the adjacent Spartina marsh. The macrofaunal assemblage of the Mission Bay S. foliosa marsh differed from that of the Atlantic S. alterniflora marsh and the Pacific mudflat in having a greater proportion of oligochaetes, especially Enchytraeidae, and fewer polychaetes. This study represents the first published description that we are aware of for macrofauna in S. foliosa vegetated marsh sediments. The findings document faunal variation among southern California embayments and suggest that differences in macrobenthic community structure occur between marsh and mudflat habitat as web as between east and west coast Spartina marshes. Observed differences may have significant implications for wetland conservation and restoration efforts.

Raman, AV, Damodaran R, Levin LA, Ganesh T, Rao YKV, Nanduri S, Madhusoodhanan R.  2015.  Macrobenthos relative to the oxygen minimum zone on the East Indian margin, Bay of Bengal. Marine Ecology-an Evolutionary Perspective. 36:679-700.   10.1111/maec.12176   AbstractWebsite

The Bay of Bengal remains one of the least studied of the world's oxygen minimum zones (OMZs). Here we offer a detailed investigation of the macrobenthos relative to oxygen minimum zone [OMZ - DO (dissolved oxygen), concentration <0.5ml1(-1)] at 110 stations off the North East Indian margin (16(0) and 20(0)N) featuring coastal, shelf and slope settings (10-1004m). Macrobenthos (>0.5mm) composition, abundance and diversity were studied in relation to variations in depth, dissolved oxygen, sediment texture and organic carbon. Using multivariate procedures powered by SIMPROF analysis we identified distinct OMZ core sites (depth 150-280m; DO 0.37ml1(-1)) that exhibited dense populations of surface-feeding polychaetes (mean 2188 ind. m(-2)) represented by spionids and cossurids (96%). Molluscs and crustaceans were poorly represented except for ampeliscid amphipods. The lower OMZ sites (DO>0.55mll(-1)) supported a different assemblage of polychaetes (cirratulids, amphinomids, eunicids, orbinids, paraonids), crustaceans and molluscs, albeit with low population densities (mean 343 ind. m(-2)). Species richness [E(S-100)], diversity (Margalef d; H') and evenness (J') were lower and dominance was higher within the OMZ core region. Multiple regression analysis showed that a combination of sand, clay, organic carbon, and dissolved oxygen explained 62-78% of the observed variance in macrobenthos species richness and diversity: E(S-100) and H'. For polychaetes, clay and oxygen proved important. At low oxygen sites (DO <1mll(-1)), depth accounted for most variance. Residual analysis (after removing depth effects) revealed that dissolved oxygen and sediment organic matter influenced 50-62% of residual variation in E(S-100), H' and d for total macrofauna. Of this, oxygen alone influenced up to similar to 50-62%. When only polychaetes were evaluated, oxygen and organic matter explained up to 58-63%. For low oxygen sites, organic matter alone had the explanatory power when dominance among polychaetes was considered. Overall, macrobenthic patterns in the Bay of Bengal were consistent with those reported for other upwelling margins. However, the compression of faunal gradients at shallower depths was most similar to the Chile/Peru margin, and different from the Arabian Sea, where the depth range of the OMZ is two times greater. The Bay of Bengal patterns may take on added significance as OMZs shoal globally.

Levin, LA, McGregor AL, Mendoza GF, Woulds C, Cross P, Witte U, Gooday AJ, Cowie G, Kitazato H.  2013.  Macrofaunal colonization across the Indian margin oxygen minimum zone. Biogeosciences. 10:7161-7177.   10.5194/bg-10-7161-2013   AbstractWebsite

There is a growing need to understand the ability of bathyal assemblages to recover from disturbance and oxygen stress, as human activities and expanding oxygen minimum zones increasingly affect deep continental margins. The effects of a pronounced oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) on slope benthic community structure have been studied on every major upwelling margin; however, little is known about the dynamics or resilience of these benthic populations. To examine the influence of oxygen and phytodetritus on shortterm settlement patterns, we conducted colonization experiments at 3 depths on the West Indian continental margin. Four colonization trays were deployed at each depth for 4 days at 542 and 802 m (transect 1-16 degrees 58 ' N) and for 9 days at 817 and 1147 m (transect 2-17 degrees 31 ' N). Oxygen concentrations ranged from 0.9 mu M (0.02 mLL(-1)) at 542 m to 22 mu M (0.5 mLL(-1) ) at 1147 m. All trays contained local defaunated sediments; half of the trays at each depth also contained C-13/N-15-labeled phytodetritus mixed into the sediments. Sediment cores were collected between 535 m and 1140 m from 2 cross-margin transects for analysis of ambient (source) macrofaunal (> 300 mu m) densities and composition. Ambient macrofaunal densities ranged from 0 ind m(-2) (at 535-542 m) to 7400 ind m(-2), with maximum values on both transects at 700-800 m. Macrofaunal colonizer densities ranged from 0 ind m(-2) at 542 m, where oxygen was lowest, to average values of 142 ind m(-2) at 800 m, and 3074 ind m(-2) at 1147 m, where oxygen concentration was highest. These were equal to 4.3 and 151% of the ambient community at 800 m and 1147 m, respectively. Community structure of settlers showed no response to the presence of phytodetritus. Increasing depth and oxygen concentration, however, significantly influenced the community composition and abundance of colonizing macrofauna. Polychaetes constituted 92.4% of the total colonizers, followed by crustaceans (4.2%), mollusks (2.5%), and echinoderms (0.8%). The majority of colonizers were found at 1147 m; 88.5% of these were Capitella sp., although they were rare in the ambient community. Colonists at 800 and 1147 m also included ampharetid, spionid, syllid, lumbrinerid, cirratulid, cossurid and sabellid polychaetes. Consumption of C-13/N-15-labeled phytodetritus was observed for macrofaunal foraminifera (too large to be colonizers) at the 542 and 802/817 m sites, and by metazoan macrofauna mainly at the deepest, better oxygenated sites. Calcareous foraminifera (Uvigerina, Hoeglundina sp.), capitellid polychaetes and cumaceans were among the major phytodetritus consumers. These preliminary experiments suggest that bottom-water oxygen concentrations may strongly influence ecosystem services on continental margins, as reflected in rates of colonization by benthos and colonizer processing of carbon following disturbance. They may also provide a window into future patterns of settlement on the continental slope as the world's oxygen minimum zones expand.

Hughes, DJ, Lamont PA, Levin LA, Packer M, Feeley K, Gage JD.  2009.  Macrofaunal communities and sediment structure across the Pakistan margin Oxygen Minimum Zone, North-East Arabian Sea. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 56:434-448.   10.1016/j.dsr2.2008.05.030   AbstractWebsite

Benthic macrofauna and sediment column features were sampled at five stations along a bathymetric transect (depths 140, 300, 940, 1200, 1850 m) through the Pakistan margin Oxygen Minimum Zone (OMZ) during the 2003 intermonsoon (March-May) and late-post-monsoon (August-October) periods. Objectives were to compare patterns with those described from other OMZs, particularly the Oman margin of the Arabian Sea, in order to assess the relative influence of bottom-water oxygenation and sediment organic content on macrofaunal standing stock and community structure. Macrofaunal density was highest at the 140-m station subject to monsoon-driven shoaling of the OMZ, but there was no elevation of density at the lower OMZ boundary (1200 m). Numbers was extremely low in the OMZ core (300 m) and were not readily explicable from the environmental data. There was no consistent depth-related trend in macrofaunal biomass. Macrofaunal densities were consistently lower than found off Oman but there was less contrast in biomass. A significant post-monsoon decline in macrofaunal density at 140 m was driven by selective loss of polychaete taxa. Polychaeta was the most abundant major taxon at all stations but did not dominate the macrofaunal community to the extent reported from Oman. Cirratulidae and Spionidae were major components of the polychaete fauna at most stations but Acrocirridae, Ampharetidae, Amphinomidae and Cossuridae were more important at 940 m. Polychaete assemblages at each station were almost completely distinct at the species level. Polychaete species richness was positively correlated with bottom-water dissolved oxygen and negatively correlated with sediment TOC, C:N ratio and total phytopigments. Community dominance showed the opposite pattern. The strongly inverse correlation between oxygen and measures of sediment organic content made it difficult to distinguish their relative effects. The strongly laminated sediments in the OMZ core contrasted with the homogeneous, heavily bioturbated sediments above and below this zone but were associated with minimal macrofaunal biomass rather than distinctive functional group composition. In general, data from the Oman margin were weak predictors of patterns seen off Pakistan, and results suggest the importance of local factors superimposed on the broader trends of macrofaunal community composition in OMZs. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Levin, LA, Blair NE, Martin CM, Demaster DJ, Plaia G, Thomas CJ.  1999.  Macrofaunal processing of phytodetritus at two sites on the Carolina margin: in situ experiments using (13)C-labeled diatoms. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. 182:37-54.   10.3354/meps182037   AbstractWebsite

Tracer experiments using (13)C-labeled diatoms Thalassiosira pseudonana were carried out at two 850 m sites (I off Cape Fear and III off Cape Hatteras) on the North Carolina, USA, slope to examine patterns of macrofaunal consumption of fresh phytodetritus. Experiments examined the influence of taxon, feeding mode, body size and vertical position within the sediment column on access to surficial organic matter. delta(13)C measurements were made on macrofaunal metazoans and agglutinating protozoans from background sediments and from sediment plots in which (13)C-labeled diatoms were deposited and then sampled 0.3 h, 1 to 1.5 d, 3 mo and 14 mo later. Significant between-site differences were observed in background delta(13)C signatures of sediments, metazoans, and large, agglutinating protozoans, with values 2 to 3 parts per thousand lower at Site III than at Site I. Background delta(13)C signatures also varied as a function of taxon and of vertical position in the sediment column at Site III. The background delta(13)C value of carnivores was higher than that of surface-deposit feeders among Site I annelids, but no annelid feeding-group differences were observed at Site III. delta(13)C data from short-term (1 to 1.5 d) experiments revealed rapid diatom ingestion, primarily by agglutinated protozoans and annelids at Site I and mainly by annelids at Site III. Selective feeding on diatoms was exhibited by paraonid polychaetes, especially Aricidea spp. Exceptionally high uptake and retention of diatom C also was observed in the maldanid Praxillella sp., the nereid Ceratocephale sp. and several other surface-deposit feeding polychaetes. After 14 mo, little of the diatom (13)C remained at Site III, but high concentrations of the tracer were present in annelids and agglutinating protozoans at Site I. At both sites, nonannelid metazoans and subsurface-deposit feeding annelids exhibited the least uptake and retention of diatom C. Our hypotheses that large-bodied taxa and shallow-dwelling infauna should have greatest access to freshly deposited organic matter were not borne out. Some small, deep-dwelling taxa acquired label more readily than large or near-surface forms. Differences in tracer fates between sites reflected greater vertical mixing at Site III. These results indicate heterogeneity in benthic processes along the Carolina margin. but suggest that labile organic matter is consumed quickly at both sites. Because most of the taxa found to consume freshly deposited diatoms in these experiments are typical of bathyal settings, we infer that phytodetritus reaching the seabed in margin environments is rapidly processed by protozoan and metazoan components of the benthic fauna.

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.

Talley, TS, Levin LA.  1999.  Macrofaunal succession and community structure in Salicornia marshes of southern California. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science. 49:713-731.   10.1006/ecss.1999.0553   AbstractWebsite

Lack of basic understanding of ecosystem structure and function forms a major impediment to successful conservation of coastal ecosystems. This paper provides a description of the fauna and examines faunal succession in Salicornia-vegetated sediments of southern California. Environmental attributes (vegetation and sediment properties) and macrofaunal (animals greater than or equal to 0.3 mm) community structure were examined in sediments of five natural, southern California Salicornia spp. marshes (Tijuana Estuary, San Diego Bay, Mission Bay, Upper Newport Bay and Anaheim Bay) and in created Salicornia marshes 16 months to 10 years in age, located within four of the bays. Oligochaetes and insects were the dominant taxa in both natural (71 to 98% of total fauna) and created (91 to 97%) marshes. In San Diego, Newport and Anaheim Bays, macrofaunal densities were generally higher in the created marshes (88 000 to 290 000 ind m(-2)) than in their natural counterparts (26 000 to 50 000 ind m(-2)). In the youngest system, Mission Bay, the reverse was true (natural: 113 000 vs created: 28 000 ind m-2). Similar species numbers were recorded from the created and adjacent natural marshes. Insects, especially chironomids, dolichopodids, and heleids, as well as the naidid oligochaete, Paranais litoralis, characterize early successional stages. Enchytraeid and tubificid oligochaetes reflect later succession evident in natural and older created marshes. Sediment organic matter (both combustible and below-ground plant biomass) was the environmental variable most commonly associated with densities of various macrofaunal taxa. These relationships were generally negative in the natural marshes and positive in the created marshes. Within-bay comparisons of macrofauna from natural Salicornia- vs Spartina-vegetated habitat in San Diego and Mission Bays revealed lower macrofaunal density (San Diego Bay only), proportionally fewer oligochaetes and more insects, and no differences in species richness in the Salicornia habitat. The oldest created Salicornia marsh (San Diego Bay) exhibited an assemblage intermediate in composition between those of the natural Salicornia- and Spartina-vegetated marshes. These results suggest: (a) faunal recovery following Salicornia marsh creation can require 10 or more years, (b) high macrofaunal variability among bays requires marsh creation reference site selection from within the same bay, and (c) Spartina-based research should not be used for Salicornia marsh management decisions. (C) 1999 Academic Press.

Sweetman, AK, Thurber AR, Smith CR, Levin LA, Mora C, Wei CL, Gooday AJ, Jones DOB, Rex M, Yasuhara M, Ingels J, Ruhl HA, Frieder CA, Danovaro R, Wurzberg L, Baco A, Grupe BM, Pasulka A, Meyer KS, Dunlop KM, Henry LA, Roberts JM.  2017.  Major impacts of climate change on deep-sea benthic ecosystems. Elementa-Science of the Anthropocene. 5:1-23.   10.1525/elementa.203   AbstractWebsite

The deep sea encompasses the largest ecosystems on Earth. Although poorly known, deep seafloor ecosystems provide services that are vitally important to the entire ocean and biosphere. Rising atmospheric greenhouse gases are bringing about significant changes in the environmental properties of the ocean realm in terms of water column oxygenation, temperature, pH and food supply, with concomitant impacts on deep-sea ecosystems. Projections suggest that abyssal (3000-6000 m) ocean temperatures could increase by 1 degrees C over the next 84 years, while abyssal seafloor habitats under areas of deep-water formation may experience reductions in water column oxygen concentrations by as much as 0.03 mL L-1 by 2100. Bathyal depths (200-3000 m) worldwide will undergo the most significant reductions in pH in all oceans by the year 2100 (0.29 to 0.37 pH units). O-2 concentrations will also decline in the bathyal NE Pacific and Southern Oceans, with losses up to 3.7% or more, especially at intermediate depths. Another important environmental parameter, the flux of particulate organic matter to the seafloor, is likely to decline significantly in most oceans, most notably in the abyssal and bathyal Indian Ocean where it is predicted to decrease by 40-55% by the end of the century. Unfortunately, how these major changes will affect deep-seafloor ecosystems is, in some cases, very poorly understood. In this paper, we provide a detailed overview of the impacts of these changing environmental parameters on deep-seafloor ecosystems that will most likely be seen by 2100 in continental margin, abyssal and polar settings. We also consider how these changes may combine with other anthropogenic stressors (e.g., fishing, mineral mining, oil and gas extraction) to further impact deep-seafloor ecosystems and discuss the possible societal implications.

Ramirez-Llodra, E, Tyler PA, Baker MC, Bergstad OA, Clark MR, Escobar E, Levin LA, Menot L, Rowden AA, Smith CR, Vandover CL.  2011.  Man and the last great wilderness: human impact on the deep sea. Plos One. 6   10.1371/journal.pone.0022588   AbstractWebsite

The deep sea, the largest ecosystem on Earth and one of the least studied, harbours high biodiversity and provides a wealth of resources. Although humans have used the oceans for millennia, technological developments now allow exploitation of fisheries resources, hydrocarbons and minerals below 2000 m depth. The remoteness of the deep seafloor has promoted the disposal of residues and litter. Ocean acidification and climate change now bring a new dimension of global effects. Thus the challenges facing the deep sea are large and accelerating, providing a new imperative for the science community, industry and national and international organizations to work together to develop successful exploitation management and conservation of the deep-sea ecosystem. This paper provides scientific expert judgement and a semi-quantitative analysis of past, present and future impacts of human-related activities on global deep-sea habitats within three categories: disposal, exploitation and climate change. The analysis is the result of a Census of Marine Life - SYNDEEP workshop (September 2008). A detailed review of known impacts and their effects is provided. The analysis shows how, in recent decades, the most significant anthropogenic activities that affect the deep sea have evolved from mainly disposal (past) to exploitation (present). We predict that from now and into the future, increases in atmospheric CO(2) and facets and consequences of climate change will have the most impact on deep-sea habitats and their fauna. Synergies between different anthropogenic pressures and associated effects are discussed, indicating that most synergies are related to increased atmospheric CO(2) and climate change effects. We identify deep-sea ecosystems we believe are at higher risk from human impacts in the near future: benthic communities on sedimentary upper slopes, cold-water corals, canyon benthic communities and seamount pelagic and benthic communities. We finalise this review with a short discussion on protection and management methods.