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Eel River Methane Seeps
(Northern California)

Patterns of Infaunal Community Structure, Nutrition and Settlement Associated with an Upper Slope Methane Seep (with A. Rathburn, J. Gieskes) NOAA-NURP West Coast (3/00-2/02)

The discovery of reduced environments in the deep sea, such as hydrothermal vents and seeps, has had a dramatic influence on perception of life at depth. However, most research into the structure and function of these communities has emphasized larger (megafaunal) or hard-substrate organisms. Paradigms formed about deep-sea reducing environments regarding community structure, nutrition, and rates of colonization have yet to be examined for smaller sediment-dwelling faunas (macrofauna, metazoan meiofauna, and foraminifera). This project will establish the influence of methane seep geochemistry on the community structure, nutritional sources and settlement patterns of small infauna (macrofauna and meiofauna) on the slope off the Eel River, Northern California. Coring will be conducted to relate sediment geochemical properties to infaunal abundance, species composition, diversity, and vertical distribution. The extent to which reduced compounds, chemosynthesis, and symbioses contribute to the nutrition of seep macrofauna (relative to non-seep slope fauna) will be examined with stable isotopic analyses of C, N and S. The role of sulfides and proximity to active seep sediments in determining infaunal recruitment at seeps will be evaluated experimentally by deployment of sediment-filled colonization trays. Resulting data on species composition and nutritional modes of colonizers will help determine the extent to which the community structure of seep infauna is determined by recruitment events. Finally, recruitment patterns and infaunal communities of the Eel River methane seeps will be compared to those in other stressed, enriched or more typical slope environments. Together these results will help integrate the infauna of reducing environments into the much larger context of deep-sea sediments as a whole.
Seafloor Images



Related Downloads:

Download Levin et al 2000 (macrofauna)
Download Rathburn et al (foraminifera)
Download Levin et al in revision
Download 2003 MEPS (Levin et al)

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Updated September 7, 2006
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