The abyssal ocean is broadly characterized by northward flow of the densest waters and southward flow of less-dense waters above them. Understanding what controls the strength and structure of these interhemispheric flows—referred to as the abyssal overturning circulation—is key to quantifying the ocean’s ability to store carbon and heat on timescales exceeding a century. Here we show that, north of 32° S, the depth distribution of the seafloor compels dense southern-origin waters to flow northward below a depth of about 4 kilometres and to return southward predominantly at depths greater than 2.5 kilometres. Unless ventilated from the north, the overlying mid-depths (1 to 2.5 kilometres deep) host comparatively weak mean meridional flow. Backed by analysis of historical radiocarbon measurements, the findings imply that the geometry of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic basins places a major external constraint on the overturning structure.
Nutrient limitation of oceanic primary production exerts a fundamental control on marine food webs and the flux of carbon into the deep ocean1. The extensive boundaries of the oligotrophic sub-tropical gyres collectively define the most extreme transition in ocean productivity, but little is known about nutrient limitation in these zones1,2,3,4. Here we present the results of full-factorial nutrient amendment experiments conducted at the eastern boundary of the South Atlantic gyre. We find extensive regions in which the addition of nitrogen or iron individually resulted in no significant phytoplankton growth over 48 hours. However, the addition of both nitrogen and iron increased concentrations of chlorophyll a by up to approximately 40-fold, led to diatom proliferation, and reduced community diversity. Once nitrogen–iron co-limitation had been alleviated, the addition of cobalt or cobalt-containing vitamin B12 could further enhance chlorophyll a yields by up to threefold. Our results suggest that nitrogen–iron co-limitation is pervasive in the ocean, with other micronutrients also approaching co-deficiency. Such multi-nutrient limitations potentially increase phytoplankton community diversity.
The generally positive relationship between the number of sites a species occupies and its average abundance within those sites provides an important link between population processes occurring at different spatial scales. Although such abundance–occupancy relationships (AORs) have been documented across a very wide range of taxa and in many different environments, little is known of such patterns in Earth's largest ecosystem, the deep sea. Wood falls – derived from natural or anthropogenic inputs of wood into the oceans – constitute an important deep-sea habitat, habouring their own unique communities ultimately entirely dependent on the wood for chemical energy. In this study we take advantage of the unique features of an experimental wood fall deployment to examine AORs for the first time in deep-sea invertebrates. The study design combines advantages of both experimental (tractability, control of key environmental parameters) and observational (natural colonisation by taxonomically diverse communities) studies. We show that the interspecific AOR is strongly positive across the 48 species occurring over 32 wood fall communities. The precise form of the AOR is mediated by both species-level life history (body size) and by the colonisation stage at which communities were harvested, but not by environmental energy (wood fall size). Temporal dynamics within species are also generally consistent with positive intraspecific AORs. This support for positive AORs in the deep sea is an important extension of a macroecological generality into a new environment offering considerable potential for further testing and developing mechanistic macroecological theories.
Harnessing information encoded in environmental DNA (eDNA) in marine waters has the potential to revolutionize marine biomonitoring. Whether using organism-specific quantitative PCR assays or metabarcoding in conjunction with amplicon sequencing, scientists have illustrated that realistic organism censuses can be inferred from eDNA. The next step is establishing ways to link information obtained from eDNA analyses to actual organism abundance. This is only possible by understanding the processes that control eDNA concentrations. The present study uses mesocosm experiments to study the persistence of eDNA in marine waters and explore the role of sunlight in modulating eDNA persistence. We seeded solute-permeable dialysis bags with water containing indigenous eDNA and suspended them in a large tank containing seawater. Bags were subjected to two treatments: half the bags were suspended near the water surface where they received high doses of sunlight, and half at depth where they received lower doses of sunlight. Bags were destructively sampled over the course of 87 hours. eDNA was extracted from water samples and used as template for a Scomber japonicus qPCR assay and a marine fish-specific 12S rRNA PCR assay. The latter was subsequently sequenced using a metabarcoding approach. S. japonicus eDNA, as measured by qPCR, exhibited first order decay with a rate constant ~0.01 hr -1 with no difference in decay rate constants between the two experimental treatments. eDNA metabarcoding identified 190 organizational taxonomic units (OTUs) assigned to varying taxonomic ranks. There was no difference in marine fish communities as measured by eDNA metabarcoding between the two experimental treatments, but there was an effect of time. Given the differences in UVA and UVB fluence received by the two experimental treatments, we conclude that sunlight is not the main driver of fish eDNA decay in the experiments. However, there are clearly temporal effects that need to be considered when interpreting information obtained using eDNA approaches.
In sunlit waters, photochemical alteration of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) impacts the microbial respiration of DOC to CO2. This coupled photochemical and biological degradation of DOC is especially critical for carbon budgets in the Arctic, where thawing permafrost soils increase opportunities for DOC oxidation to CO2 in surface waters, thereby reinforcing global warming. Here we show how and why sunlight exposure impacts microbial respiration of DOC draining permafrost soils. Sunlight significantly increases or decreases microbial respiration of DOC depending on whether photo-alteration produces or removes molecules that native microbial communities used prior to light exposure. Using high-resolution chemical and microbial approaches, we show that rates of DOC processing by microbes are likely governed by a combination of the abundance and lability of DOC exported from land to water and produced by photochemical processes, and the capacity and timescale that microbial communities have to adapt to metabolize photo-altered DOC.
The world's oceans today have become a place for the disposal of toxic waste, which leads to the degradation of marine mammal habitats and populations. Marine mammal cell cultures have proven to be a multifunctional tool for studying the peculiarities of the cell physiology and biochemistry of these animals as well as the destructive effects of anthropogenic and natural toxicants. This review describes the sources of marine mammal live tissues and the methods required for establishing cell cultures, their use, and long-term storage. Approaches to conserving rare animal species by applying cell biology methodologies are also discussed.
Queen conch (Lobatus gigas) is an important food source and export product for Belize, where extraction is regulated by shell length (SL) and market clean weight (MCW) limits. However, lip thickness (LT) limits are used to manage juvenile mortality and reduce risk of growth overfishing in other countries. Empirical studies suggest relationships between LT and sexual maturity vary spatially and need to be determined locally. This study was conducted to determine the most reliable, easily measurable proxy indicator(s) of maturity and associated target size limits in L. gigas that can effectively restrict harvest of juveniles. Morphological measures (SL, LT, lip width, unprocessed meat weight, MCW, operculum dimensions), gonadosomatic index (GSI) and histological evaluations were recorded from L. gigas collected in PHMR before, during, and after the L. gigas closed season. Upon determining Period 2 (during closed season) as the peak reproductive period, relationships between these variables in Period 2 were examined. No relationship was found in males between SL and maturity, and was weak in females, whereas there were significant curvilinear relationships between LT and GSI for both sexes, suggesting urgent need to base size limits on LT not SL. LT at which 50% of the population was mature (LT50) was 15.51 mm for females and 12.33 mm for males, therefore a 16 mm LT limit is recommended. MCW of female L. gigas was also significantly related to GSI, indicating MCW may be an appropriate management tool in conjunction with LT as it can be measured at landing sites whereas shells are usually discarded at sea. However, MCW at which 50% of females were mature (MCW50) was 199 g and many individuals exceeding LT50 had MCW <199 g, suggesting the current 85 g MCW limit is too low to protect juveniles yet 199 g MCW limit would be too high to substitute the recommended LT limit at landing sites. To minimize short-term impacts yet maximize long-term benefits to fishers' livelihoods, multi-stage adaptive management is recommended that integrates initial catch reductions, followed by introduction of size limits of 16 mm LT, and 150 g MCW. Adjustable LT and MCW limits determined by fishery simulation could later be introduced.
We evaluated total mercury (THg) concentrations and trends in polar bears from the southern Beaufort Sea subpopulation from 2004 to 2011. Hair THg concentrations ranged widely among individuals from 0.6 to 13.3 μg g–1 dry weight (mean: 3.5 ± 0.2 μg g–1). Concentrations differed among sex and age classes: solitary adult females ≈ adult females with cubs ≈ subadults > adult males ≈ yearlings > cubs-of-the-year ≈ 2 year old dependent cubs. No variation was observed between spring and fall samples. For spring-sampled adults, THg concentrations declined by 13% per year, contrasting recent trends observed for other Western Hemispheric Arctic biota. Concentrations also declined by 15% per year considering adult males only, while a slower, nonsignificant decrease of 4.4% per year was found for adult females. Lower THg concentrations were associated with higher body mass index (BMI) and higher proportions of lower trophic position food resources consumed. Because BMI and diet were related, and the relationship to THg was strongest for BMI, trends were re-evaluated adjusting for BMI as the covariate. The adjusted annual decline was not significant. These findings indicate that changes in foraging ecology, not declining environmental concentrations of mercury, are driving short-term declines in THg concentrations in southern Beaufort Sea polar bears.
Salps are marine invertebrates comprising multiple jet-propelled swimming units during a colonial life-cycle stage. Using theory, we show that asynchronous swimming with multiple pulsed jets yields substantial hydrodynamic benefit due to the production of steady swimming velocities, which limit drag. Laboratory comparisons of swimming kinematics of aggregate salps (Salpa fusiformis and Weelia cylindrica) using high-speed video supported that asynchronous swimming by aggregates results in a smoother velocity profile and showed that this smoother velocity profile is the result of uncoordinated, asynchronous swimming by individual zooids. In situ flow visualizations of W. cylindrica swimming wakes revealed that another consequence of asynchronous swimming is that fluid interactions between jet wakes are minimized. Although the advantages of multi-jet propulsion have been mentioned elsewhere, this is the first time that the theory has been quantified and the role of asynchronous swimming verified using experimental data from the laboratory and the field.
Coastal marine upwelling famously supports elevated levels of pelagic biological production, but can also subsidize production in inshore habitats via pelagic-benthic coupling. Consumers inhabiting macroalgae-dominated rocky reef habitats are often considered to be members of a food web fuelled by energy derived from benthic primary production; conversely, they may also be subsidized by materials transported from pelagic habitats. Here, we used stable isotopes (δ13C, δ15N) to examine the relative contribution of pelagic and benthic materials to an ecologically and economically important benthivorous fish assemblage inhabiting subtidal macroalgae-dominated reefs along ~1,000 km of the northern Chilean coast where coastal upwelling is active. Fish were isotopically most similar to the pelagic pathway and Bayesian mixing models indicated that production of benthivorous fish was dominated (median 98%, range 69–99%) by pelagic-derived C and N. Although the mechanism by which these materials enter the benthic food web remains unknown, our results clearly highlight the importance of pelagic-benthic coupling in the region. The scale of this subsidy has substantial implications for our basic understanding of ecosystem functioning and the management of nearshore habitats in northern Chile and other upwelling zones worldwide.