Project description:Oxygen depleted areas are widespread in the marine realm. Unlike macrofauna, meiofauna are abundant in hypoxic sediments. We studied to what extent meiofauna affect oxygen availability, sulfide removal and microbial communities. Meiofauna were extracted alive and added to intact sediments simulating abundance gradients previously reported in the area. A total of 324 porewater microprofiles were recorded over a 3-week incubation period and microbial community structure and cable bacteria densities were determined at the end of the experiment. At high abundances meiofauna activity deepened oxygen penetration by 85%, 59%, and 62% after 5, 14, and 22 days, respectively, compared to control sediment with scarce meiofauna. After 6 days, meiofauna increased the volume of oxidized, sulfide-free sediment by 68% and reduced sulfide fluxes from 8.8 to 0.4 mmol m-2 d-1. After 15 days, the difference with the control attenuated due to the presence of a cable bacteria population, which facilitated sulfides oxidation in all treatments. 16S rRNA gene analysis revealed that meiofauna affected microbial community structure (beta diversity). Thus, meiofauna bioturbation plays an important role in deepening oxygen penetration, counteracting euxinia and in structuring microbial diversity of hypoxic sediments. Co-existence with cable bacteria demonstrates neutralism interaction between these two ecosystem engineers.
Project description: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.
Project description:Sea-level rise induced by climate change may have significant impacts on the ecosystem functions and ecosystem services provided by intertidal sediment ecosystems. Accelerated sea-level rise is expected to lead to steeper beach slopes, coarser particle sizes and increased wave exposure, with consequent impacts on intertidal ecosystems. We examined the relationships between abundance, biomass, and community metabolism of benthic fauna with beach slope, particle size and exposure, using samples across a range of conditions from three different locations in the UK, to determine the significance of sediment particle size beach slope and wave exposure in affecting benthic fauna and ecosystem function in different ecological contexts. Our results show that abundance, biomass and oxygen consumption of intertidal macrofauna and meiofauna are affected significantly by interactions among sediment particle size, beach slope and wave exposure. For macrofauna on less sloping beaches, the effect of these physical constraints is mediated by the local context, although for meiofauna and for macrofauna on intermediate and steeper beaches, the effects of physical constraints dominate. Steeper beach slopes, coarser particle sizes and increased wave exposure generally result in decreases in abundance, biomass and oxygen consumption, but these relationships are complex and non-linear. Sea-level rise is likely to lead to changes in ecosystem structure with generally negative impacts on ecosystem functions and ecosystem services. However, the impacts of sea-level rise will also be affected by local ecological context, especially for less sloping beaches.