Nematodes represent the most abundant benthic metazoa in one of the largest habitats on earth, the deep sea. Characterizing major patterns of biodiversity within this dominant group is a critical step towards understanding evolutionary patterns across this vast ecosystem. The present study has aimed to place deep-sea nematode species into a phylogenetic framework, investigate relationships between shallow water and deep-sea taxa, and elucidate phylogeographic patterns amongst the deep-sea fauna.
Molecular data (18 S and 28 S rRNA) confirms a high diversity amongst deep-sea Enoplids. There is no evidence for endemic deep-sea lineages in Maximum Likelihood or Bayesian phylogenies, and Enoplids do not cluster according to depth or geographic location. Tree topologies suggest frequent interchanges between deep-sea and shallow water habitats, as well as a mixture of early radiations and more recently derived lineages amongst deep-sea taxa. This study also provides convincing evidence of cosmopolitan marine species, recovering a subset of Oncholaimid nematodes with identical gene sequences (18 S, 28 S and cox1) at trans-Atlantic sample sites.
The complex clade structures recovered within the Enoplida support a high global species richness for marine nematodes, with phylogeographic patterns suggesting the existence of closely related, globally distributed species complexes in the deep sea. True cosmopolitan species may additionally exist within this group, potentially driven by specific life history traits of Enoplids. Although this investigation aimed to intensively sample nematodes from the order Enoplida, specimens were only identified down to genus (at best) and our sampling regime focused on an infinitesimal small fraction of the deep-sea floor. Future nematode studies should incorporate an extended sample set covering a wide depth range (shelf, bathyal, and abyssal sites), utilize additional genetic loci (e.g. mtDNA) that are informative at the species level, and apply high-throughput sequencing methods to fully assay community diversity. Finally, further molecular studies are needed to determine whether phylogeographic patterns observed in Enoplids are common across other ubiquitous marine groups (e.g. Chromadorida, Monhysterida).
Ecological speciation probably plays a more prominent role in diversification than previously thought, particularly in marine ecosystems where dispersal potential is great and where few obvious barriers to gene flow exist. This may be especially true in the deep sea where allopatric speciation seems insufficient to account for the rich and largely endemic fauna. Ecologically driven population differentiation and speciation are likely to be most prevalent along environmental gradients, such as those attending changes in depth. We quantified patterns of genetic variation along a depth gradient (1600-3800m) in the western North Atlantic for a protobranch bivalve (Nuculaatacellana) to test for population divergence. Multilocus analyses indicated a sharp discontinuity across a narrow depth range, with extremely low gene flow inferred between shallow and deep populations for thousands of generations. Phylogeographical discordance occurred between nuclear and mitochondrial loci as might be expected during the early stages of species formation. Because the geographic distance between divergent populations is small and no obvious dispersal barriers exist in this region, we suggest the divergence might reflect ecologically driven selection mediated by environmental correlates of the depth gradient. As inferred for numerous shallow-water species, environmental gradients that parallel changes in depth may play a key role in the genesis and adaptive radiation of the deep-water fauna.
Chemosynthetic primary production by microbes supports abundant faunal assemblages at deep-sea hydrothermal vents, with zonation of invertebrate species typically occurring along physico-chemical gradients. Recently discovered vent fields on the East Scotia Ridge (ESR) in the Southern Ocean represent a new province of vent biogeography, but the spatial dynamics of their distinct fauna have yet to be elucidated. This study determines patterns of faunal zonation, species associations, and relationships between faunal microdistribution and hydrothermal activity in a vent field at a depth of 2,400 m on the ESR. Remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives obtained high-definition imagery of three chimney structures with varying levels of hydrothermal activity, and a mosaic image of >250 m2 of seafloor co-registered with temperature measurements. Analysis of faunal microdistribution within the mosaiced seafloor reveals a consistent pattern of faunal zonation with increasing distance from vent sources and peak temperatures. Assemblages closest to vent sources are visibly dominated by a new species of anomuran crab, Kiwa n. sp. (abundance >700 individuals m−2), followed by a peltospiroid gastropod (>1,500 individuals m−2), eolepadid barnacle (>1,500 individuals m−2), and carnivorous actinostolid anemone (>30 individuals m−2). Peripheral fauna are not dominated by a single taxon, but include predatory and scavenger taxa such as stichasterid seastars, pycnogonids and octopus. Variation in faunal microdistribution on chimneys with differing levels of activity suggests a possible successional sequence for vent fauna in this new biogeographic province. An increase in δ34S values of primary consumers with distance from vent sources, and variation in their δ13C values also indicate possible zonation of nutritional modes of the vent fauna. By using ROV videography to obtain a high-resolution representation of a vent environment over a greater extent than previous studies, these results provide a baseline for determining temporal change and investigations of processes structuring faunal assemblages at Southern Ocean vents.
The latitudinal diversity gradient, with maximum taxonomic richness in the tropics, is widely accepted as being pervasive on land, but the existence of this pattern in the sea has been surprisingly controversial. This is partly due to Thorson's influential claim that the normal latitudinal diversity gradient occurs in marine epifauna (taxa living on the surface of the substratum) but not in infauna (burrowing or boring into the substratum), a contrast he attributed to the greater spatial and temporal environmental homogeneity of infaunal habitats. In an analysis of 930 species of north-eastern Pacific marine shelf bivalves, we found that bivalves as a whole, and both infauna and epifauna separately, show a strong latitudinal diversity gradient (measured as number of species per degree latitude) that is closely related to mean sea surface temperature (SST), even in analyses of residuals and first differences. This agrees with results for marine gastropods, but contradicts Thorson's environmental homogeneity hypothesis. The relationship between SST and diversity is consistent with a species-energy hypothesis, but the linkages from SST to diversity remain unclear. Most bivalve clades within broad functional groups conform to the general latitudinal trend, except for the deposit-feeding protobranchs. This group's non-directional pattern may be related to its mode of development, because a similar effect is seen in several other groups locked into this low-fecundity, non-feeding larval mode.
The unexpected high species richness of deep-sea sediments gives rise to the questions, which processes produce and maintain diversity in the deep sea, and at what spatial scales do these processes operate? The idea of a small-scale habitat structure at the deep-sea floor provides the background for this study. At small scales biogenic structures create a heterogeneous environment that influences the structure of the surrounding communities and the dynamics of the meiobenthic populations. As an example for biogenic structures, small deep-sea sponges (Tentorium semisuberites Schmidt 1870) and their sedimentary environment were investigated for small-scale distribution patterns of benthic deep-sea nematodes. Sampling was carried out with the remotely operated vehicle Victor 6000 at the Arctic deep-sea observatory HAUSGARTEN. In order to investigate nematode community patterns sediment cores around three small sponges and corresponding control cores were analysed. A total of approx. 5800 nematodes were identified. The comparison of the nematode communities from sponge and control samples indicated an influence of the biogenic structure “sponge” on diversity patterns and habitat heterogeneity. The increased number of nematode species and functional groups found in the sediments around the sponges suggest that on a small scale the sponge acts as a gradient and creates a more divers habitat structure. The nematode community from the sponge sediments shows a greater taxonomic variance and species richness together with lower relative abundances of the species compared to those from control sediments. Obviously, the more homogeneous habitat conditions of the control sediments offer less micro-habitats than the sediments around the sponges. This seems to reduce the number of functional groups and species coexisting in the control sediments.
Deep-sea ecosystems represent the largest biome of the global biosphere, but
knowledge of their biodiversity is still scant. The Mediterranean basin has been
proposed as a hot spot of terrestrial and coastal marine biodiversity but has
been supposed to be impoverished of deep-sea species richness. We summarized all
available information on benthic biodiversity (Prokaryotes, Foraminifera,
Meiofauna, Macrofauna, and Megafauna) in different deep-sea ecosystems of the
Mediterranean Sea (200 to more than 4,000 m depth), including open slopes, deep
basins, canyons, cold seeps, seamounts, deep-water corals and deep-hypersaline
anoxic basins and analyzed overall longitudinal and bathymetric patterns. We
show that in contrast to what was expected from the sharp decrease in organic
carbon fluxes and reduced faunal abundance, the deep-sea biodiversity of both
the eastern and the western basins of the Mediterranean Sea is similarly high.
All of the biodiversity components, except Bacteria and Archaea, displayed a
decreasing pattern with increasing water depth, but to a different extent for
each component. Unlike patterns observed for faunal abundance, highest negative
values of the slopes of the biodiversity patterns were observed for Meiofauna,
followed by Macrofauna and Megafauna. Comparison of the biodiversity associated
with open slopes, deep basins, canyons, and deep-water corals showed that the
deep basins were the least diverse. Rarefaction curves allowed us to estimate
the expected number of species for each benthic component in different
bathymetric ranges. A large fraction of exclusive species was associated with
each specific habitat or ecosystem. Thus, each deep-sea ecosystem contributes
significantly to overall biodiversity. From theoretical extrapolations we
estimate that the overall deep-sea Mediterranean biodiversity (excluding
prokaryotes) reaches approximately 2805 species of which about 66% is
still undiscovered. Among the biotic components investigated (Prokaryotes
excluded), most of the unknown species are within the phylum Nematoda, followed
by Foraminifera, but an important fraction of macrofaunal and megafaunal species
also remains unknown. Data reported here provide new insights into the patterns
of biodiversity in the deep-sea Mediterranean and new clues for future
investigations aimed at identifying the factors controlling and threatening
Huge tsunami waves associated with megathrust earthquakes have a severe impact on shallow marine ecosystems. We investigated the impact of a tsunami generated by the 2011 M9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake on the seafloor and large benthic animals in muddy and sandy ria coasts (Otsuchi and Funakoshi bays) in northeastern Japan. We conducted underwater field surveys using scuba equipment in water depths of <20 m before the tsunami (September 2010) and after the tsunami (September 2011 and September 2012). During the study period, episodic changes in topography and grain-size composition occurred on the seafloor of the study area. Megabenthos sampling revealed a distinct pattern of distribution succession for each benthic species. For example, the protobranch bivalve Yoldia notabilis (Bivalvia: Nuculanidae) and the heterodont bivalve Felaniella usta (Bivalvia: Ungulinidae) disappeared after the tsunami event, whereas the distribution of the venus clam Gomphina melanaegis (Bivalvia: Veneridae) remained unchanged. In addition, the patterns of succession for a single species, such as the giant button top shell Umbonium costatum (Gastropoda: Trochidae) and the heart urchin Echinocardium cordatum (Echinoidea: Loveniidae), varied between the two bays studied. Our data also show that reestablishment of some benthic animal populations began within 18 months of the tsunami disturbance.
Shallow-water tropical reefs and the deep sea represent the two most diverse marine environments. Understanding the origin and diversification of this biodiversity is a major quest in ecology and evolution. The most prominent and well-supported explanation, articulated since the first explorations of the deep sea, holds that benthic marine fauna originated in shallow, onshore environments, and diversified into deeper waters. In contrast, evidence that groups of marine organisms originated in the deep sea is limited, and the possibility that deep-water taxa have contributed to the formation of shallow-water communities remains untested with phylogenetic methods. Here we show that stylasterid corals (Cnidaria: Hydrozoa: Stylasteridae)—the second most diverse group of hard corals—originated and diversified extensively in the deep sea, and subsequently invaded shallow waters. Our phylogenetic results show that deep-water stylasterid corals have invaded the shallow-water tropics three times, with one additional invasion of the shallow-water temperate zone. Our results also show that anti-predatory innovations arose in the deep sea, but were not involved in the shallow-water invasions. These findings are the first robust evidence that an important group of tropical shallow-water marine animals evolved from deep-water ancestors.
The proportion in which carbon and growth-limiting nutrients are exported from the oceans’ productive surface layer to the deep sea is a crucial parameter in models of the biological carbon pump. Based on >400 vertical flux observations of particulate organic carbon (POC) and nitrogen (PON) from the European Arctic Ocean we show the common assumption of constant C:N stoichiometry not to be met. Exported POC:PON ratios exceeded the classical Redfield atomic ratio of 6.625 in the entire region, with the largest deviation in the deep Central Arctic Ocean. In this part the mean exported POC:PON ratio of 9.7 (a:a) implies c. 40% higher carbon export compared to Redfield-based estimates. When spatially integrated, the potential POC export in the European Arctic was 10–30% higher than suggested by calculations based on constant POC:PON ratios. We further demonstrate that the exported POC:PON ratio varies regionally in relation to nitrate-based new production over geographical scales that range from the Arctic to the subtropics, being highest in the least productive oligotrophic Central Arctic Ocean and subtropical gyres. Accounting for variations in export stoichiometry among systems of different productivity will improve the ability of models to resolve regional patterns in carbon export and, hence, the oceans’ contribution to the global carbon cycle will be predicted more accurately.
A comprehensive seafloor biomass and abundance database has been constructed from 24 oceanographic institutions worldwide within the Census of Marine Life (CoML) field projects. The machine-learning algorithm, Random Forests, was employed to model and predict seafloor standing stocks from surface primary production, water-column integrated and export particulate organic matter (POM), seafloor relief, and bottom water properties. The predictive models explain 63% to 88% of stock variance among the major size groups. Individual and composite maps of predicted global seafloor biomass and abundance are generated for bacteria, meiofauna, macrofauna, and megafauna (invertebrates and fishes). Patterns of benthic standing stocks were positive functions of surface primary production and delivery of the particulate organic carbon (POC) flux to the seafloor. At a regional scale, the census maps illustrate that integrated biomass is highest at the poles, on continental margins associated with coastal upwelling and with broad zones associated with equatorial divergence. Lowest values are consistently encountered on the central abyssal plains of major ocean basins The shift of biomass dominance groups with depth is shown to be affected by the decrease in average body size rather than abundance, presumably due to decrease in quantity and quality of food supply. This biomass census and associated maps are vital components of mechanistic deep-sea food web models and global carbon cycling, and as such provide fundamental information that can be incorporated into evidence-based management.
Recent expeditions have revealed high levels of biodiversity in the tropical deep-sea, yet little is known about the age or origin of this biodiversity, and large-scale molecular studies are still few in number. In this study, we had access to the largest number of solariellid gastropods ever collected for molecular studies, including many rare and unusual taxa. We used a Bayesian chronogram of these deep-sea gastropods (1) to test the hypothesis that deep-water communities arose onshore, (2) to determine whether Antarctica acted as a source of diversity for deep-water communities elsewhere and (3) to determine how factors like global climate change have affected evolution on the continental slope. We show that although fossil data suggest that solariellid gastropods likely arose in a shallow, tropical environment, interpretation of the molecular data is equivocal with respect to the origin of the group. On the other hand, the molecular data clearly show that Antarctic species sampled represent a recent invasion, rather than a relictual ancestral lineage. We also show that an abrupt period of global warming during the Palaeocene Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) leaves no molecular record of change in diversification rate in solariellids and that the group radiated before the PETM. Conversely, there is a substantial, although not significant increase in the rate of diversification of a major clade approximately 33.7 Mya, coinciding with a period of global cooling at the Eocene–Oligocene transition. Increased nutrients made available by contemporaneous changes to erosion, ocean circulation, tectonic events and upwelling may explain increased diversification, suggesting that food availability may have been a factor limiting exploitation of deep-sea habitats. Tectonic events that shaped diversification in reef-associated taxa and deep-water squat lobsters in central Indo-West Pacific were also probably important in the evolution of solariellids during the Oligo-Miocene.
Biogeography; deep sea; Eocene–Oligocene transition; phylogeny
Although the deep sea is the largest ecosystem on Earth, its infaunal ecology remains poorly understood because of the logistical challenges. Here we report the morphology of relatively large burrows obtained by in situ burrow casting at a hydrocarbon-seep site and a non-seep site at water depths of 1173 and 1455 m, respectively. Deep and complex burrows are abundant at both sites, indicating that the burrows introduce oxygen-rich sea water into the deep reducing substrate, thereby influencing benthic metabolism and nutrient fluxes, and providing an oxic microhabitat for small organisms. Burrow castings reveal that the solemyid bivalve Acharax johnsoni mines sulphide from the sediment, as documented for related shallow-water species. To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine in situ burrow morphology in the deep sea by means of burrow casting, providing detailed information on burrow structure which will aid the interpretation of seabed processes in the deep sea.
benthos; ichnology; Acharax; bioturbation; bioirrigation; resin casting
The possibility for commercial mining of deep-sea manganese nodules is currently under exploration in the abyssal Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone. Nematodes have potential for biomonitoring of the impact of commercial activity but the natural biodiversity is unknown. We investigate the feasibility of nematodes as biomonitoring organisms and give information about their natural biodiversity.
The taxonomic composition (at family to genus level) of the nematode fauna in the abyssal Pacific is similar, but not identical to, the North Atlantic. Given the immature state of marine nematode taxonomy, it is not possible to comment on the commonality or otherwise of species between oceans. The between basin differences do not appear to be directly linked to current ecological factors. The abyssal Pacific region (including the Fracture Zone) could be divided into two biodiversity subregions that conform to variations in the linked factors of flux to the benthos and of sedimentary characteristics. Richer biodiversity is associated with areas of known phytodetritus input and higher organic-carbon flux. Despite high reported sample diversity, estimated regional diversity is less than 400 species.
The estimated regional diversity of the CCFZ is a tractable figure for biomonitoring of commercial activities in this region using marine nematodes, despite the immature taxonomy (i.e. most marine species have not been described) of the group. However, nematode ecology is in dire need of further study.
Patterns of beta-diversity or distance decay at oceanic scales are completely unknown for deep-sea communities. Even when appropriate data exist, methodological problems have made it difficult to discern the relative roles of environmental filtering and dispersal limitation for generating faunal turnover patterns. Here, we combine a spatially extensive dataset on deep-sea bivalves with a model incorporating ecological dynamics and shared evolutionary history to quantify the effects of environmental filtering and dispersal limitation. Both the model and empirical data are used to relate functional, taxonomic and phylogenetic similarity between communities to environmental and spatial distances separating them for 270 sites across the Atlantic Ocean. This study represents the first ocean-wide analysis examining distance decay as a function of a broad suite of explanatory variables. We find that both strong environmental filtering and dispersal limitation drive turnover in taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic composition in deep-sea bivalves, explaining 26 per cent, 34 per cent and 9 per cent of the variation, respectively. This contrasts with previous suggestions that dispersal is not limiting in broad-scale biogeographic and biodiversity patterning in marine systems. However, rates of decay in similarity with environmental distance were eightfold to 44-fold steeper than with spatial distance. Energy availability is the most influential environmental variable evaluated, accounting for 3.9 per cent, 9.4 per cent and 22.3 per cent of the variation in functional, phylogenetic and taxonomic similarity, respectively. Comparing empirical patterns with process-based theoretical predictions provided quantitative estimates of dispersal limitation and niche breadth, indicating that 95 per cent of deep-sea bivalve propagules will be able to persist in environments that deviate from their optimum by up to 2.1 g m−2 yr−1 and typically disperse 749 km from their natal site.
distance decay; beta-diversity; niche; dispersal; approximate Bayesian computation; pattern-oriented modelling
The origin and possible antiquity of the spectacularly diverse modern deep-sea fauna has been debated since the beginning of deep-sea research in the mid-nineteenth century. Recent hypotheses, based on biogeographic patterns and molecular clock estimates, support a latest Mesozoic or early Cenozoic date for the origin of key groups of the present deep-sea fauna (echinoids, octopods). This relatively young age is consistent with hypotheses that argue for extensive extinction during Jurassic and Cretaceous Oceanic Anoxic Events (OAEs) and the mid-Cenozoic cooling of deep-water masses, implying repeated re-colonization by immigration of taxa from shallow-water habitats. Here we report on a well-preserved echinoderm assemblage from deep-sea (1000–1500 m paleodepth) sediments of the NE-Atlantic of Early Cretaceous age (114 Ma). The assemblage is strikingly similar to that of extant bathyal echinoderm communities in composition, including families and genera found exclusively in modern deep-sea habitats. A number of taxa found in the assemblage have no fossil record at shelf depths postdating the assemblage, which precludes the possibility of deep-sea recolonization from shallow habitats following episodic extinction at least for those groups. Our discovery provides the first key fossil evidence that a significant part of the modern deep-sea fauna is considerably older than previously assumed. As a consequence, most major paleoceanographic events had far less impact on the diversity of deep-sea faunas than has been implied. It also suggests that deep-sea biota are more resilient to extinction events than shallow-water forms, and that the unusual deep-sea environment, indeed, provides evolutionary stability which is very rarely punctuated on macroevolutionary time scales.
Molluscan faunal turnover in the Plio-Pleistocene of the tropical western Atlantic has been attributed to drops in temperature or primary productivity, but these competing hypotheses have not been assessed ecologically. To test these alternatives, we compiled data on changing molluscan life habits and trophic composition over 12 million years derived from 463 newly made collections from the southwestern Caribbean. Shelf ecosystems have altered markedly in trophic structure since the Late Pliocene. Predatory gastropods and suspension-feeding bivalves declined significantly in abundance, but not in diversity, and reef-dwellers became common. By contrast, all other ecological life habits remained remarkably stable. Food-web changes strongly support the hypothesis that declining regional nutrient supply had an increasing impact on regional macroecology, culminating in a faunal turnover.
Along a west-to-east axis spanning the Galicia Bank region (Iberian margin) and the Mediterranean basin, a reduction in surface primary productivity and in seafloor flux of particulate organic carbon was mirrored in the in situ organic matter quantity and quality within the underlying deep-sea sediments at different water depths (1200, 1900 and 3000 m). Nematode standing stock (abundance and biomass) and genus and trophic composition were investigated to evaluate downward benthic-pelagic coupling. The longitudinal decline in seafloor particulate organic carbon flux was reflected by a reduction in benthic phytopigment concentrations and nematode standing stock. An exception was the station sampled at the Galicia Bank seamount, where despite the maximal particulate organic carbon flux estimate, we observed reduced pigment levels and nematode standing stock. The strong hydrodynamic forcing at this station was believed to be the main cause of the local decoupling between pelagic and benthic processes. Besides a longitudinal cline in nematode standing stock, we noticed a west-to-east gradient in nematode genus and feeding type composition (owing to an increasing importance of predatory/scavenging nematodes with longitude) governed by potential proxies for food availability (percentage of nitrogen, organic carbon, and total organic matter). Within-station variability in generic composition was elevated in sediments with lower phytopigment concentrations. Standing stock appeared to be regulated by sedimentation rates and benthic environmental variables, whereas genus composition covaried only with benthic environmental variables. The coupling between deep-sea nematode assemblages and surface water processes evidenced in the present study suggests that it is likely that climate change will affect the composition and function of deep-sea nematodes.
Deep-sea hydrothermal vent fields are areas on the seafloor with high biological productivity fueled by microbial chemosynthesis. Members of the Aquificales genus Persephonella are obligately chemosynthetic bacteria, and appear to be key players in carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen cycles in high temperature habitats at deep-sea vents. Although this group of bacteria has cosmopolitan distribution in deep-sea hydrothermal ecosystem around the world, little is known about their population structure such as intraspecific genomic diversity, distribution pattern, and phenotypic diversity. We developed the multi-locus sequence analysis (MLSA) scheme for their genomic characterization. Sequence variation was determined in five housekeeping genes and one functional gene of 36 Persephonella hydrogeniphila strains originated from the Okinawa Trough and the South Mariana Trough (SNT). Although the strains share >98.7% similarities in 16S rRNA gene sequences, MLSA revealed 35 different sequence types (ST), indicating their extensive genomic diversity. A phylogenetic tree inferred from all concatenated gene sequences revealed the clustering of isolates according to the geographic origin. In addition, the phenotypic clustering pattern inferred from whole-cell matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF/MS) analysis can be correlated to their MLSA clustering pattern. This study represents the first MLSA combined with phenotypic analysis indicative of allopatric speciation of deep-sea hydrothermal vent bacteria.
population structure; biogeography; deep-sea hydrothermal vent; Persephonella; Aquificales; MLSA; MALDI-TOF/MS; chemolithoautotroph
In recent years, a number of species–energy hypotheses have been developed to explain global patterns in plant and animal diversity. These hypotheses frequently fail to distinguish between fundamentally different forms of energy which influence diversity in dissimilar ways. Photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) can be utilized only by plants, though their abundance and growth rate is also greatly influenced by water. The Gibbs free energy (chemical energy) retained in the reduced organic compounds of tissue can be utilized by all heterotrophic organisms. Neither PAR nor chemical energy influences diversity directly. Both, however, influence biomass and/or abundance; diversity may then increase as a result of secondary population dynamic or evolutionary processes. Temperature is not a form of energy, though it is often used loosely by ecologists as a proxy for energy; it does, however, influence the rate of utilization of chemical energy by organisms. It may also influence diversity by allowing a greater range of energetic lifestyles at warmer temperatures (the metabolic niche hypothesis). We conclude that there is no single species/energy mechanism; fundamentally different processes link energy to abundance in plants and animals, and diversity is affected secondarily. If we are to make progress in elucidating these mechanisms, it is important to distinguish climatic effects on species' distribution and abundance from processes linking energy supply to plant and animal diversity.
abundance; energy; photosynthetically active radiation; speciation; species richness; temperature
The Mediterranean Sea is a marine biodiversity hot spot. Here we combined an extensive literature analysis with expert opinions to update publicly available estimates of major taxa in this marine ecosystem and to revise and update several species lists. We also assessed overall spatial and temporal patterns of species diversity and identified major changes and threats. Our results listed approximately 17,000 marine species occurring in the Mediterranean Sea. However, our estimates of marine diversity are still incomplete as yet—undescribed species will be added in the future. Diversity for microbes is substantially underestimated, and the deep-sea areas and portions of the southern and eastern region are still poorly known. In addition, the invasion of alien species is a crucial factor that will continue to change the biodiversity of the Mediterranean, mainly in its eastern basin that can spread rapidly northwards and westwards due to the warming of the Mediterranean Sea. Spatial patterns showed a general decrease in biodiversity from northwestern to southeastern regions following a gradient of production, with some exceptions and caution due to gaps in our knowledge of the biota along the southern and eastern rims. Biodiversity was also generally higher in coastal areas and continental shelves, and decreases with depth. Temporal trends indicated that overexploitation and habitat loss have been the main human drivers of historical changes in biodiversity. At present, habitat loss and degradation, followed by fishing impacts, pollution, climate change, eutrophication, and the establishment of alien species are the most important threats and affect the greatest number of taxonomic groups. All these impacts are expected to grow in importance in the future, especially climate change and habitat degradation. The spatial identification of hot spots highlighted the ecological importance of most of the western Mediterranean shelves (and in particular, the Strait of Gibraltar and the adjacent Alboran Sea), western African coast, the Adriatic, and the Aegean Sea, which show high concentrations of endangered, threatened, or vulnerable species. The Levantine Basin, severely impacted by the invasion of species, is endangered as well.
This abstract has been translated to other languages (File S1).
Seamounts are unique deep-sea features that create habitats thought to have high levels of endemic fauna, productive fisheries and benthic communities vulnerable to anthropogenic impacts. Many seamounts are isolated features, occurring in the high seas, where access is limited and thus biological data scarce. There are numerous seamounts within the Drake Passage (Southern Ocean), yet high winds, frequent storms and strong currents make seafloor sampling particularly difficult. As a result, few attempts to collect biological data have been made, leading to a paucity of information on benthic habitats or fauna in this area, particularly those on primarily hard-bottom seamounts and ridges. During a research cruise in 2008 six locations were examined (two on the Antarctic margin, one on the Shackleton Fracture Zone, and three on seamounts within the Drake Passage), using a towed camera with onboard instruments to measure conductivity, temperature, depth and turbidity. Dominant fauna and bottom type were categorized from 200 randomized photos from each location. Cold-water corals were present in high numbers in habitats both on the Antarctic margin and on the current swept seamounts of the Drake Passage, though the diversity of orders varied. Though the Scleractinia (hard corals) were abundant on the sedimented margin, they were poorly represented in the primarily hard-bottom areas of the central Drake Passage. The two seamount sites and the Shackleton Fracture Zone showed high numbers of stylasterid (lace) and alcyonacean (soft) corals, as well as large numbers of sponges. Though data are preliminary, the geological and environmental variability (particularly in temperature) between sample sites may be influencing cold-water coral biogeography in this region. Each area observed also showed little similarity in faunal diversity with other sites examined for this study within all phyla counted. This manuscript highlights how little is understood of these isolated features, particularly in Polar regions.
The availability of nutrients and energy is a main driver of biodiversity for plant and animal communities in terrestrial and marine ecosystems, but we are only beginning to understand whether and how energy–diversity relationships may be extended to complex natural bacterial communities. Here, we analyzed the link between phytodetritus input, diversity and activity of bacterial communities of the Siberian continental margin (37–3427 m water depth). Community structure and functions, such as enzymatic activity, oxygen consumption and carbon remineralization rates, were highly related to each other, and with energy availability. Bacterial richness substantially increased with increasing sediment pigment content, suggesting a positive energy–diversity relationship in oligotrophic regions. Richness leveled off, forming a plateau, when mesotrophic sites were included, suggesting that bacterial communities and other benthic fauna may be structured by similar mechanisms. Dominant bacterial taxa showed strong positive or negative relationships with phytodetritus input and allowed us to identify candidate bioindicator taxa. Contrasting responses of individual taxa to changes in phytodetritus input also suggest varying ecological strategies among bacterial groups along the energy gradient. Our results imply that environmental changes affecting primary productivity and particle export from the surface ocean will not only affect bacterial community structure but also bacterial functions in Arctic deep-sea sediment, and that sediment bacterial communities can record shifts in the whole ocean ecosystem functioning.
arctic; bacteria; diversity; ecology; sediment
Knowledge of the spatial scales of diversity is necessary to evaluate the mechanisms driving biodiversity and biogeography in the vast but poorly understood deep sea. The community structure of kinetoplastids, an important group of microbial eukaryotes belonging to the Euglenozoa, from all abyssal plains of the South Atlantic and two areas of the eastern Mediterranean was studied using partial small subunit ribosomal DNA gene clone libraries. A total of 1364 clones from 10 different regions were retrieved. The analysis revealed statistically not distinguishable communities from both the South-East Atlantic (Angola and Guinea Basin) and the South-West Atlantic (Angola and Brazil Basin) at spatial scales of 1000–3000 km, whereas all other communities were significantly differentiated from one another. It seems likely that multiple processes operate at the same time to shape communities of deep-sea kinetoplastids. Nevertheless, constant and homogenous environmental conditions over large spatial scales at abyssal depths, together with high dispersal capabilities of microbial eukaryotes, maintain best the results of statistically indistinguishable communities at larger spatial scales.
microbial eukaryotes; biogeography; distribution patterns; spatial scale
Biodiversity has diminished over the past decades with climate change being among the main responsible factors. One consequence of climate change is the increase in sea surface temperature, which, together with long exposure periods in intertidal areas, may exceed the tolerance level of benthic organisms. Benthic communities may suffer structural changes due to the loss of species or functional groups, putting ecological services at risk. In sandy beaches, free-living marine nematodes usually are the most abundant and diverse group of intertidal meiofauna, playing an important role in the benthic food web. While apparently many functionally similar nematode species co-exist temporally and spatially, experimental results on selected bacterivore species suggest no functional overlap, but rather an idiosyncratic contribution to ecosystem functioning. However, we hypothesize that functional redundancy is more likely to observe when taking into account the entire diversity of natural assemblages. We conducted a microcosm experiment with two natural communities to assess their stress response to elevated temperature. The two communities differed in diversity (high [HD] vs. low [LD]) and environmental origin (harsh vs. moderate conditions). We assessed their stress resistance to the experimental treatment in terms of species and diversity changes, and their function in terms of abundance, biomass, and trophic diversity. According to the Insurance Hypothesis, we hypothesized that the HD community would cope better with the stressful treatment due to species functional overlap, whereas the LD community functioning would benefit from species better adapted to harsh conditions. Our results indicate no evidence of functional redundancy in the studied nematofaunal communities. The species loss was more prominent and size specific in the HD; large predators and omnivores were lost, which may have important consequences for the benthic food web. Yet, we found evidence for alternative diversity–ecosystem functioning relationships, such as the Rivets and the Idiosyncrasy Model.
Environmental impacts of human activities on the deep seafloor are of increasing concern. While activities within waters shallower than 200 m have been the focus of previous assessments of anthropogenic impacts, no study has quantified the extent of individual activities or determined the relative severity of each type of impact in the deep sea.
The OSPAR maritime area of the North East Atlantic was chosen for the study because it is considered to be one of the most heavily impacted by human activities. In addition, it was assumed data would be accessible and comprehensive. Using the available data we map and estimate the spatial extent of five major human activities in the North East Atlantic that impact the deep seafloor: submarine communication cables, marine scientific research, oil and gas industry, bottom trawling and the historical dumping of radioactive waste, munitions and chemical weapons. It was not possible to map military activities. The extent of each activity has been quantified for a single year, 2005.
Human activities on the deep seafloor of the OSPAR area of the North Atlantic are significant but their footprints vary. Some activities have an immediate impact after which seafloor communities could re-establish, while others can continue to make an impact for many years and the impact could extend far beyond the physical disturbance. The spatial extent of waste disposal, telecommunication cables, the hydrocarbon industry and marine research activities is relatively small. The extent of bottom trawling is very significant and, even on the lowest possible estimates, is an order of magnitude greater than the total extent of all the other activities.
To meet future ecosystem-based management and governance objectives for the deep sea significant improvements are required in data collection and availability as well as a greater awareness of the relative impact of each human activity.