Ecology of hydrothermal vents on three segments of the Juan de Fuca Ridge, northeast Pacific




Tsurumi, Maia

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This work seeks to explore current ecological theory through application to communities inhabiting hydrothermal vents. This thesis aims to: (1) add to and synthesise knowledge of species and their distributions at the intra- and intersegment scale; and (2) evaluate vent community patterns and speculate on processes. Samples used are submersible grabs of low temperature (<60°C) tubeworm assemblages on basalt and sulphide surfaces. Species abundances and distributions on three segments of the Juan de Fuca Ridge (Axial, Cleft, and CoAxial) are described. Community descriptors such as species density, Simpson's and the Shannon-Wiener diversity indices, evenness, species richness, species abundance-distribution models, species percent-average relative abundance and density are used. Vent community structure is compared among segments using these descriptors, visual descriptions, pairwise correlations, Friedman tests of distributions, cluster and correspondence analysis, rarefaction, complementarity, a test for saturation, and Whittaker's beta diversity. Vent community composition on Axial, north Cleft, and CoAxial is similar at the segment and inter-segment scale. The limpet Lepetodrilus fucensis is the most abundant species at all sites. Differences among communities are best seen temporally, not spatially. Senescent communities can be distinguished from active vent assemblages. Pioneer communities, however, are statistically indistinguishable from intermediate communities when sampled two or more years post-eruption. Axial and Cleft species dispersion fits the core-satellite hypothesis. The exceptions are the polynoids Branchinotogluma sp., Lepidonotopodium piscesae, and Levensteiniella kincaidi, which are widespread and present in low local abundances. Both local and mesoscale regional mechanisms explain observed local diversity. Spatial isolation, not habitat differences, influences between-habitat diversity (beta diversity) on Axial, Cleft, and all three segments combined. Meiofauna are important for species richness estimates, identifying differences among structurally similar communities, and understanding input/output between vents and the deep-sea. Measurements such as species richness and diversity indices may be poor at distinguishing among vent communities because vents are species poor and uneven. The Michaelis-Menten, Jackknife 2, and Chao 2 nonparametric vent species richness estimators perform well with small samples. Vent communities should be compared to habitats of similar diversity and evenness as well as disturbance and productivity regimes. Candidate comparison communities include communities in early successional states, selected taxocenes such as carabid beetles on fungi, or high disturbance and/or low diversity systems like the rocky intertidal, organically polluted sediments and oxygen minimum zones below upwelling regions in the deep-sea.



Hydrothermal vents, Juan de Fuca Ridge, Hydrothermal vent ecology