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  1. Abstract

    In the past decade, thousands of previously unknown methane seeps have been identified on continental margins around the world. As we have come to appreciate methane seep habitats to be abundant components of marine ecosystems, we have also realized they are highly dynamic in nature. With a focus on discrete depth ranges across the Cascadia Margin, we work to further unravel the drivers of seep‐associated microbial community structure. We found highly heterogenous environments, with depth as a deterministic factor in community structure. This was associated with multiple variables that covaried with depth, including surface production, prevailing oxygen minimum zones (OMZs), and geologic and hydrographic context. Development of megafaunal seep communities appeared limited in shallow depth zones (~ 200 m). However, this effect did not extend to the structure or function of microbial communities. Siboglinid tubeworms were restricted to water depths > 1000 m, and we posit this deep distribution is driven by the prevailing OMZ limiting dispersal. Microbial community composition and distribution covaried most significantly with depth, but variables including oxygen concentration, habitat type, and organic matter, as well as iron and methane concentration, also explained the distribution of the microbial seep taxa. While members of the core seep microbiome were seen across sites, there was a high abundance of microbial taxa not previously considered within the seep microbiome as well. Our work highlights the multifaceted aspects that drive community composition beyond localized methane flux and depth, where environmental diversity adds to margin biodiversity in seep systems.

     
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