Meio‐epifaunal wood colonization in the vicinity of methane seeps
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Meio‐epifaunal wood colonization in the vicinity of methane seeps


Abstract: In deep‐sea environments, plant remains of several origins are found, including branches, twigs, leaves, and wood pieces, among others. As most of the deep‐sea bottoms are oligotrophic and nutrient‐limited, plant remains provide an oasis of localized organic enrichment and a substrate for colonization. Sunken wood was suggested to play an important evolutionary role in the diversification of chemosynthetic ecosystems, possibly representing stepping stones for the colonization between vent and seep ecosystems. In order to understand colonization processes of the Pacific Costa Rican meio‐epifaunal assemblages associated with sunken wood, a field experiment was conducted on Mound 12 (8°55.778′N, 84°18.730′W) at ~1,000 m water depth. Woodblocks were placed in four different habitats (Mussel beds, tube worms, near mussel beds, rubble bottoms), and different local environmental conditions (seepage‐active and seepage‐inactive sites). Seven experimental Douglas fir woodblocks (each 1,047 cm2 in surface area) were deployed from the R/V Atlantis using the manned submersible Alvin in February 2009 and recovered after 10.5 months in January 2010. Sample processing and analyses led to a data set of abundance (total 9,951 individuals) and spatial distribution of nine meio‐epifaunal higher taxa/groups. Meio‐epifaunal densities on individual woodblocks ranged from 3 to 26 ind.10 cm2. Copepods accounted for the highest abundances (75.1%), followed by nauplii larvae (11.7%) and nematodes (9.8%). The maximum number of individuals (26.3 ind.10 cm−2) was found in blocks placed in seepage‐inactive areas (near active mussel beds) in contrast to 2.9 ind.10 cm−2 in active areas (within a mussel bed). A hierarchical cluster analysis grouped blocks according to seepage activity and not to habitat, but tests of similarity showed no significant differences in higher taxon composition and abundances, probably owing either to substrate homogeneity or low sample size. Copepods were the most abundant representatives, suggesting that this group is one of the most successful in colonizing in the early stage of succession, in this case while hardwood substrates are not yet decomposed or bored by bivalves.

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