Natural Sciences

Spatial effects of the Canterbury earthquakes on inanga spawning habitat and implications for waterways management

Orchard S, Hickford MJH. Spatial effects of the Canterbury earthquakes on inanga spawning habitat and implications for waterways management. Christchurch, New Zealand: Waterways Centre for Freshwater Management; 2016. Available from: https://marxiv.org/4m9g7
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Report

The Canterbury earthquakes resulted in numerous changes to the waterways of Ōtautahi Christchurch. These included bank destabilisation, liquefaction effects, changes in bed levels, and associated effects on flow regimes and inundation levels. This study set out to determine if these effects had altered the location and pattern of sites utilised by inanga (Galaxias maculatus) for spawning, which are typically restricted to very specific locations in upper estuarine areas.

Extensive surveys were carried out in the Heathcote/Ōpāwaho and Avon/Ōtākaro catchments over the four peak months of the 2015 spawning season. New spawning sites were found in both rivers and analysis against pre-earthquake records identified that other significant changes have occurred.

Major changes include the finding of many new spawning sites in the Heathcote/Ōpāwaho catchment. Sites now occur up to 1.5km further downstream than the previously reported limit and include the first records of spawning below the Woolston Cut. Spawning sites in the Avon/Ōtākaro catchment also occur in new locations. In the mainstem, sites now occur both upstream and downstream of all previously reported locations. A concentrated area of spawning was identified in Lake Kate Sheppard at a distinctly different location versus pre-quake records, and no spawning was found on the western shores. Spawning was also recorded for the first time in Anzac Creek, a nearby waterway connected to Lake Kate Sheppard via a series of culverts. Overall the results indicate that spawning is taking place in different locations from the pre-quake pattern. Although egg survival was not measured in this study, sites in new locations may be vulnerable to current or future land-use activities that are incompatible with spawning success. Consequently, there are considerable management implications associated with this spatial shift, primarily relating to riparian management. In particular, there is a need to control threats to spawning sites and achieve protection for the areas involved. This is required under the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010 and is a prominent objective in a range of other policies and plans.mainstem, sites now occur both upstream and downstream of all previously reported locations. A concentrated area of spawning was identified in Lake Kate Sheppard at a distinctly different location versus pre-quake records, and no spawning was found on the western shores. Spawning was also recorded for the first time in Anzac Creek, a nearby waterway connected to Lake Kate Sheppard via a series of culverts.

Overall the results indicate that spawning is taking place in different locations from the pre-quake pattern. Although egg survival was not measured in this study, sites in new locations may be vulnerable to current or future land-use activities that are incompatible with spawning success. Consequently, there are considerable management implications associated with this spatial shift, primarily relating to riparian management. In particular, there is a need to control threats to spawning sites and achieve protection for the areas involved. This is required under the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010 and is a prominent objective in a range of other policies and plans.

A unifying theory for top-heavy ecosystem structure in the ocean

C. Woodson B, Schramski JR, Joye SB. A unifying theory for top-heavy ecosystem structure in the ocean. Nature Communications [Internet]. 2018 ;9(1). Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-02450-y
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Size generally dictates metabolic requirements, trophic level, and consequently, ecosystem structure, where inefficient energy transfer leads to bottom-heavy ecosystem structure and biomass decreases as individual size (or trophic level) increases. However, many animals deviate from simple size-based predictions by either adopting generalist predatory behavior, or feeding lower in the trophic web than predicted from their size. Here we show that generalist predatory behavior and lower trophic feeding at large body size increase overall biomass and shift ecosystems from a bottom-heavy pyramid to a top-heavy hourglass shape, with the most biomass accounted for by the largest animals. These effects could be especially dramatic in the ocean, where primary producers are the smallest components of the ecosystem. This approach makes it possible to explore and predict, in the past and in the future, the structure of ocean ecosystems without biomass extraction and other impacts.

Community-level facilitation by macroalgal foundation species peaks at an intermediate level of environmental stress

Scrosati RA. Community-level facilitation by macroalgal foundation species peaks at an intermediate level of environmental stress. ALGAE [Internet]. 2017 ;32(1):41 - 46. Available from: https://www.e-algae.org/journal/view.php?doi=10.4490/algae.2017.32.2.20
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

In rocky intertidal habitats, abiotic stress due to desiccation and thermal extremes increases with elevation because of tides. A study in Atlantic Canada showed that, at low elevations where conditions are benign due to the brief low tides, fucoid algal canopies (Ascophyllum nodosum and Fucus spp.) do not affect the structure of benthic communities. However, at middle and high elevations, where low tides last longer, fucoid canopies limit abiotic extremes and increase the richness (number of invertebrate and algal species, except fucoids) of benthic communities. Using the data from that study, this paper compares the intensity of facilitation and its importance (relative to all other sources of variation in richness) between middle and high elevations, which represent intermediate and high stress, respectively. Facilitation intensity was calculated as the percent increase in benthic richness between quadrats with low and high canopy cover, while the importance of facilitation was calculated as the percentage of variation in richness explained by canopy cover. Data for 689 quadrats spanning 350 km of coastline were used. Both the intensity and importance of facilitation were greater at middle elevations than at high elevations. As canopies do not affect benthic communities at low elevations, this study suggests that the facilitation-stress relationship at the community level is unimodal for this marine system. Such a pattern was found for some terrestrial systems dominated by canopy-forming plants. Thus, it might be ubiquitous in nature and, as further studies refine it, it might help to predict community-level facilitation depending on environmental stress.

Unimodal relationship between small-scale barnacle recruitment and the density of pre-existing barnacle adults

Scrosati RA, Ellrich JA. Unimodal relationship between small-scale barnacle recruitment and the density of pre-existing barnacle adults. PeerJ [Internet]. 2017 ;5:e3444. Available from: https://peerj.com/articles/3444/
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Recruitment is a key demographic process for population persistence. This paper focuses on barnacle (Semibalanus balanoides) recruitment. In rocky intertidal habitats from the Gulf of St. Lawrence coast of Nova Scotia (Canada), ice scour is common during the winter. At the onset of intertidal barnacle recruitment in early May (after sea ice has fully melted), mostly only adult barnacles and bare substrate are visible at high elevations in wave-exposed habitats. We conducted a multiannual study to investigate if small-scale barnacle recruitment could be predicted from the density of pre-existing adult barnacles. In a year that exhibited a wide adult density range (ca. 0–130 individuals dm−2), the relationship between adult density and recruit density (scaled to the available area for recruitment, which excluded adult barnacles) was unimodal. In years that exhibited a lower adult density range (ca. 0–40/50 individuals dm−2), the relationship between adult and recruit density was positive and resembled the lower half of the unimodal relationship. Overall, adult barnacle density was able to explain 26–40% of the observed variation in recruit density. The unimodal adult–recruit relationship is consistent with previously documented intraspecific interactions. Between low and intermediate adult densities, the positive nature of the relationship relates to the previously documented fact that settlement-seeking larvae are chemically and visually attracted to adults, which might be important for local population persistence. Between intermediate and high adult densities, where population persistence may be less compromised and the abundant adults may limit recruit growth and survival, the negative nature of the relationship suggests that adult barnacles at increasingly high densities stimulate larvae to settle elsewhere. The unimodal pattern may be especially common on shores with moderate rates of larval supply to the shore, because high rates of larval supply may swamp the coast with settlers, decoupling recruit density from local adult abundance.

A 12-year record of intertidal barnacle recruitment in Atlantic Canada (2005-2016): relationships with sea surface temperature and phytoplankton abundance

Scrosati RA, Ellrich JA. A 12-year record of intertidal barnacle recruitment in Atlantic Canada (2005-2016): relationships with sea surface temperature and phytoplankton abundance. PeerJ [Internet]. 2016 ;4:e2623. Available from: https://peerj.com/articles/2623/
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

On the Gulf of St. Lawrence coast of Nova Scotia (Canada), recruitment of the barnacle Semibalanus balanoides occurs in May and June. Every year in June between 2005 and 2016, we recorded recruit density for this barnacle at the same wave-exposed rocky intertidal location on this coast. During these 12 years, mean recruit density was lowest in 2015 (198 recruits dm−2) and highest in 2007 (969 recruits dm−2). The highest recruit density observed in a single quadrat was 1,457 recruits dm−2 (in 2011) and the lowest was 34 recruits dm−2 (in 2015). Most barnacle recruits appear during May, which suggests that most pelagic larvae (which develop over 5–6 weeks before benthic settlement) are in the water column in April. An AICc-based model selection approach identified sea surface temperature (SST) in April and the abundance of phytoplankton (food for barnacle larvae, measured as chlorophyll-a concentration –Chl-a–) in April as good explanatory variables. Together, April SST and April Chl-a explained 51% of the observed interannual variation in recruit density, with an overall positive influence. April SST was positively related to March–April air temperature (AT). April Chl-a was negatively related to the April ratio between the number of days with onshore winds (which blow from phytoplankton-limited offshore waters) and the number of days with alongshore winds (phytoplankton is more abundant on coastal waters). Therefore, this study suggests that climatic processes affecting April SST and April Chl-a indirectly influence intertidal barnacle recruitment by influencing larval performance.

Cascading predator effects in a Fijian coral reef ecosystem

Rasher DB, Hoey AS, Hay ME. Cascading predator effects in a Fijian coral reef ecosystem. Scientific Reports [Internet]. 2017 ;7(1). Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-15679-w
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Coral reefs are among Earth’s best-studied ecosystems, yet the degree to which large predators influence the ecology of coral reefs remains an open and contentious question. Recent studies indicate the consumptive effects of large reef predators are too diffuse to elicit trophic cascades. Here, we provide evidence that such predators can produce non-consumptive (fear) effects that flow through herbivores to shape the distribution of seaweed on a coral reef. This trophic cascade emerged because reef topography, tidal oscillations, and shark hunting behaviour interact to create predictable “hot spots” of fear on the reef where herbivores withhold feeding and seaweeds gain a spatial refuge. Thus, in risky habitats, sharks can exert strong ecological impacts even though they are trophic generalists that rarely feed. These findings contextualize the debate over whether predators influence coral reef structure and function and move us to ask not if, but under what specific conditions, they generate trophic cascades.

Abyssal ocean overturning shaped by seafloor distribution

de Lavergne C, Madec G, Roquet F, Holmes RM, McDougall TJ. Abyssal ocean overturning shaped by seafloor distribution. Nature [Internet]. 2017 ;551(7679):181 - 186. Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature24472
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
No
Approximate cost to purchase or rent this item from the publisher: 
US $20.00
Type: Journal Article

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 co-limitation at the boundary of an oceanic gyre

Browning TJ, Achterberg EP, Rapp I, Engel A, Bertrand EM, Tagliabue A, C. Moore M. Nutrient co-limitation at the boundary of an oceanic gyre. Nature [Internet]. 2017 . Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature24063
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
No
Approximate cost to purchase or rent this item from the publisher: 
US $20.00
Type: Journal Article

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.

Abundance-occupancy relationships in deep sea wood fall communities

Webb TJ, Barry JP, McClain CR. Abundance-occupancy relationships in deep sea wood fall communities. Ecography [Internet]. 2017 ;40(11):1339 - 1347. Available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ecog.02618/abstract
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

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.

Persistence of marine fish environmental DNA and the influence of sunlight

Andruszkiewicz EA, Sassoubre LM, Boehm AB. Persistence of marine fish environmental DNA and the influence of sunlight Doi H. PLOS ONE [Internet]. 2017 ;12(9):e0185043. Available from: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0185043
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

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.

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