skip to main content

Attention:

The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 5:00 PM ET until 11:00 PM ET on Friday, June 21 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.


Title: The dynamic influence of methane seepage on macrofauna inhabiting authigenic carbonates
Abstract

Methane seeps are highly productive deep‐sea ecosystems reliant on chemosynthetic primary production. They are increasingly affected by direct human activities that threaten key ecosystem services. Methane seepage often generates precipitation of authigenic carbonate rocks, which host diverse microbes, and a dynamic invertebrate community. By providing hard substrate, even after seepage ceases, these rocks may promote a long‐lasting ecological interaction between seep and background communities. We analyzed community composition, density, and trophic structure of invertebrates on authigenic carbonates at Mound 12, a seep on the Pacific margin of Costa Rica, using one mensurative and two manipulative experiments. We asked whether carbonate macrofaunal communities are able to survive, adapt, and recover from changes in environmental factors (i.e., seepage activity, chemosynthetic production, and food availability), and we hypothesized a key role for seepage activity in defining these communities and responses. Communities onin situcarbonates under different seepage activities showed declining density with increasing distance from the seep and a shift in composition from gastropod dominance in areas of active seepage to more annelids and peracarid crustaceans that are less dependent on chemosynthetic production under lesser seepage. Response to changing environmental context was evident from altered community composition following (1) a natural decline in seepage over successive years, (2) transplanting of carbonates to different seepage conditions for 17 months, and (3) defaunated carbonate deployments under different seepage regimes over 7.4 yr. Seep faunas on transplants to lesser seepage emerge and recover faster than transition fauna (characterized by native seep and background faunas, respectively) and are able to persist by adapting their diets or by retaining their symbiotic bacteria. The macrofaunal community colonizing defaunated carbonates deployed for 7.4 yr developed communities with a similar successional stage asin siturocks, although trophic structure was not fully recovered. Thus, macrofaunal successional dynamics are affected by habitat complexity and the availability of microbial chemosynthetic productivity. This multi‐experiment study highlights the interaction between biotic and abiotic factors at methane seeps at different time scales along a spatial gradient connecting seep and surrounding deep‐sea communities and offers insight on the resilience of deep‐sea macrofaunal communities.

 
more » « less
Award ID(s):
1634172
NSF-PAR ID:
10359794
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Ecosphere
Volume:
12
Issue:
10
ISSN:
2150-8925
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Vermeij, Geerat J. (Ed.)
    Continental margins host methane seeps, animal falls and wood falls, with chemosynthetic communities that may share or exchange species. The goal of this study was to examine the existence and nature of linkages among chemosynthesis-based ecosystems by deploying organic fall mimics (bone and wood) alongside defaunated carbonate rocks within high and lesser levels of seepage activity for 7.4 years. We compared community composition, density, and trophic structure of invertebrates on these hard substrates at active methane seepage and transition (less seepage) sites at Mound 12 at ~1,000 m depth, a methane seep off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. At transition sites, the community composition on wood and bone was characteristic of natural wood- and whale-fall community composition, which rely on decay of the organic substrates. However, at active sites, seepage activity modified the relationship between fauna and substrate, seepage activity had a stronger effect in defining and homogenizing these communities and they depend less on organic decay. In contrast to community structure, macrofaunal trophic niche overlap between substrates, based on standard ellipse areas, was greater at transition sites than at active sites, except between rock and wood. Our observations suggest that whale- and wood-fall substrates can function as stepping stones for seep fauna even at later successional stages, providing hard substrate for attachment and chemosynthetic food. 
    more » « less
  2. At marine methane seeps, vast quantities of methane move through the shallow subseafloor, where it is largely consumed by microbial communities. This process plays an important role in global methane dynamics, but we have yet to identify all of the methane sinks in the deep sea. Here, we conducted a continental-scale survey of seven geologically diverse seafloor seeps and found that carbonate rocks from all sites host methane-oxidizing microbial communities with substantial methanotrophic potential. In laboratory-based mesocosm incubations, chimney-like carbonates from the newly described Point Dume seep off the coast of Southern California exhibited the highest rates of anaerobic methane oxidation measured to date. After a thorough analysis of physicochemical, electrical, and biological factors, we attribute this substantial metabolic activity largely to higher cell density, mineral composition, kinetic parameters including an elevated V max , and the presence of specific microbial lineages. Our data also suggest that other features, such as electrical conductance, rock particle size, and microbial community alpha diversity, may influence a sample’s methanotrophic potential, but these factors did not demonstrate clear patterns with respect to methane oxidation rates. Based on the apparent pervasiveness within seep carbonates of microbial communities capable of performing anaerobic oxidation of methane, as well as the frequent occurrence of carbonates at seeps, we suggest that rock-hosted methanotrophy may be an important contributor to marine methane consumption. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Ecotones have been described as “biodiversity hotspots” from myriad environments, yet have not been studied extensively in the deep ocean. While physiologically challenging, deep‐water methane seeps host highly productive communities fueled predominantly by chemosynthetic pathways. We hypothesized that the biological and geochemical influence of methane seeps extends into background habitats, resulting in the formation of a “chemotone” where chemosynthesis‐based and photosynthesis‐based communities overlap. To investigate this, we analyzed the macrofaunal assemblages and geochemical properties of sediments collected from “active,” “transition” (potential chemotone), and “background” habitats surrounding five Costa Rican methane seeps (depth range 377–1908 m). Sediment geochemistry demonstrated a clear distinction between active and transition habitats, but not between transition and background habitats. In contrast, biological variables confirmed the presence of a chemotone, characterized by intermediate biomass, a distinct species composition (including habitat endemics and species from both active and background habitats), and enhanced variability in species composition among samples. However, chemotone assemblages were not distinct from active and/or background assemblages in terms of faunal density, biological trait composition, or diversity. Biomass and faunal stable isotope data suggest that chemotones are driven by a gradient in food delivery, receiving supplements from chemosynthetic production in addition to available photosynthetic‐based resources. Sediment geochemistry suggests that chemosynthetic food supplements are delivered across the chemotone at least in part through the water column, as opposed to reflecting exclusivelyin situchemosynthetic production in sediments. Management efforts should be cognisant of the ecological attributes and spatial extent of the chemotone that surrounds deep‐sea chemosynthetic environments.

     
    more » « less
  4. Methane seeps are highly abundant marine habitats that contribute sources of chemosynthetic primary production to marine ecosystems. Seeps also factor into the global budget of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Because of these factors, methane seeps influence not only local ocean ecology, but also biogeochemical cycles on a greater scale. Methane seeps host specialized microbial communities that vary significantly based on geography, seep gross morphology, biogeochemistry, and a diversity of other ecological factors including cross-domain species interactions. In this study, we collected sediment cores from six seep and non-seep locations from Grays and Quinault Canyons (46–47°N) off Washington State, USA, as well as one non-seep site off the coast of Oregon, USA (45°N) to quantify the scale of seep influence on biodiversity within marine habitats. These samples were profiled using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Predicted gene functions were generated using the program PICRUSt2, and the community composition and predicted functions were compared among samples. The microbial communities at seeps varied by seep morphology and habitat, whereas the microbial communities at non-seep sites varied by water depth. Microbial community composition and predicted gene function clearly transitioned from on-seep to off-seep in samples collected from transects moving away from seeps, with a clear ecotone and high diversity where methane-fueled habitats transition into the non-seep deep sea. Our work demonstrates the microbial and metabolic sphere of influence that extends outwards from methane seep habitats. 
    more » « less
  5. Methane seeps provide biogeochemical and microbial heterogeneity in deep-sea habitats. In the Northeast (NE) Pacific Ocean recent studies have found an abundance of seeps at varying spatial separations and within distinct biogeochemical environments ranging in oxygen, depth, and temperature. Here, we examine eight newly discovered seeps and two known seeps covering 800 km and varying across 2000 m water depth to identify: (1) novel megafaunal communities in this geographical region; (2) variations in the microbiome of seep habitats across the margin; (3) spatial and biogeochemical drivers of microbial diversity at seeps. In addition to authigenic carbonates, clam beds, microbial mats, and exposed hydrates - we also observed Siboglinidae tube worm bushes and an anomalous deep-sea barnacle adding to the overall habitats known from the NE Pacific. The microbial communities showed high variability in their spatial distribution and community structure. The seep communities formed distinct groups that included multiple groups of anaerobic methane oxidizing Archaea (ANME; 1, 2ab, 2c, and 3), often co-occurring within one site – however, there were also other sites with clearly dominant members (e.g. ANME-1s at Nehalem Bank). Sulfide oxidizers were dominated by the non-mat forming Campylobacterales and even though vertical gradients in redox potential typify seep sediments, in two cases there was not a significant change in community structure across the top five cm of sediment. We posit that these patterns were driven by ‘bubble-turbation,’ and bioirrigation by megafauna. A surprising latitudinal trend was observed in species diversity and richness with increasing richness significantly correlated to increasing latitude. Overall, our results demonstrate that heterogeneity is ubiquitous in the seep biome, spanning all faunal classes, and that the understanding of seeps and the drivers of the community structure can be improved by studying seeps at a range of spatial scales. 
    more » « less