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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • Lauren S Mullineaux
  • (508) 289-2898
Award Date:01/02/2014
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 225,731
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 225,731
  • FY 2014=$225,731
Start Date:03/01/2014
End Date:02/28/2018
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.050
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Effects of Disturbance and Larval Supply on Communities at Hydrothermal Vents
Federal Award ID Number:1356738
DUNS ID:001766682
Parent DUNS ID:001766682
Program Officer:
  • Daniel J. Thornhill
  • (703) 292-8143

Awardee Location

County:Woods Hole
Awardee Cong. District:09

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Street:266 Woods Hole Road
City:Woods Hole
County:Woods Hole
Cong. District:09

Abstract at Time of Award

Overview: The long-term aim of this project is to understand the effects of disturbance on species occurrence and regional diversity in vent systems. The investigator is working toward that goal by conducting field studies on larval dispersal and colonization processes, and by collaborating with theoretical ecologists. The present project investigates a unique set of field observations gathered from decade-long monitoring of vents before and after a recent catastrophic eruption on the East Pacific Rise (EPR). The specific objectives are to determine whether succession is deterministic (or are there alternative stable states?), and whether disturbance at one vent field can influence community structure on a larger spatial scale. Answering these questions requires characterization of larval exchange between vents and of the effect of pioneer colonists on successional trajectory. The approach is to characterize species composition of larvae and colonists at three vent sites on the EPR: one that was disturbed by the eruption (9 degrees 50 minutes N) and two that remained undisturbed (9 degrees 47 minutes N and 9 degrees 30 minutes N). The investigators are running out of time to process the samples, because they degrade over time and the specimens are at risk of losing morphological detail which is critical for species identification. This award has modest funding to focus specifically on species identification and enumeration, without attempting to interface with models or population genetic analyses. These will come later. Intellectual Merit: The question of how vent communities persist despite living in patchy, ephemeral habitat has intrigued scientists since the discovery of vents in the late 1970s. A necessary synthesis of the influence of larval connectivity on metacommunity dynamics at the regional scale continues to elude us. This project works toward that synthesis by characterizing critical aspects of larval exchange and community succession at vents on the well-studied EPR. This study has general application to vent systems globally because it challenges the assumption that vent succession is deterministic, and it will contribute to our understanding of spatial scales of larval connectivity. The data on larval exchange and community resilience that will result from this study are precisely the kind needed for metapopulations modeling, for prediction of vent community response to anthropogenic events such as seafloor mining, and to inform management efforts at the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. Broader Impacts: The investigator will broaden the impact of this research by engaging under-represented minority students into research through recruitment of promising undergraduates via the well-established Partnership Education Program (PEP) in Woods Hole. The objective of PEP is to increase diversity in the Ocean and Environmental Sciences; it is sponsored by 6 scientific institutions in the region. Funds are budgeted to bring additional students into the program in two summers, specifically to work on vent ecological research. In addition, PI Mullineaux will continue her long-term efforts at education and outreach through teaching graduate courses, engaging undergraduates into vents research through the WHOI SSF program, and transitioning ocean science to the local community through the Woods Hole Science and Technology Education Partnership.

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

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Mullineaux, L.S. A. Metaxas, S.E. Beaulieu, M. Bright, S. Gollner, B. Grupe, S. Herrera, J. Kellner, L. Levin, S. Mitarai, M. Neubert, A. Thurnherr, V. Tunnicliffe, H.K. Watanabe, Y-J Won. "Exploring the ecology of deep-sea hydrothermal vents in a metacommunity framework." Frontiers in Marine Science, v.5, 2018, p.49. doi:10.3389/fmars.2018.00049 

Nedoncelle, K., Lartaud, F., Pereira, L. C., Yuecel, M., Thurnherr, A. M., Mullineaux, L., & Le Bris, N "Bathymodiolus growth dynamics in relation to environmental fluctuations in vent habitats." DEEP-SEA RESEARCH PART I-OCEANOGRAPHIC RESEARCH PAPERS, v.106, 2015, p.183.

Project Outcomes Report


This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

The main goal of this project was to understand the effect of disturbance on populations at hydrothermal vents.  We analyzed samples of colonists and larvae collected near 10°N on the East Pacific Rise (Fig. 1) after a major eruption in 2006 to try to determine how it affected populations in the areas paved over by the eruption as well as on neighboring sites where the original communities survived.

We collected colonists on settlement surfaces (Fig. 2) at intervals to monitor species abundance and diversity at three vent sites: one in the eruption area (P Vent), one adjacent site where the community survived the eruption (V Vent) and one 35 km south (K Vent) with a different species composition.  All sites were sampled in 2006-2007; monitoring continues at the eruption area site up to the present.  Larval samples (Fig. 3) were collected near P Vent and K Vent using plankton pumps and sediment traps in 2006-2007 to ascertain whether species composition and abundance differed between the sites.  All macrofauna, including juveniles and larvae, were identified to the lowest possible taxonomic group, often to species.  Where species-level identifications were not possible, we implemented barcoding for numerically important groups.

The long-term studies at P Vent showed that species diversity has continued to increase over time since 2006 (Fig 4).  The presence of the pioneer limpet Lepetodrilus tevnianus, which was not detected immediately prior to the eruption, as late as 8 years afterward showed that initial colonists may affect the development of the community through time.  Short-term colonization studies indicated that settlement was different at the three sites.  In particular, we found that the pre-existing community at V Vent affected the species and numbers of animals settling there (Fig. 5) and that this effect was strongest in the Warm zone (typically settled by mussels, ~4-10° C).  Numbers and species composition of larvae arriving at  P Vent differed substantially from those at K Vent.  This may be due to differences in the local species composition or could be affected by transport by currents.

Our results, using a diverse suite of species rather than just large animals visible in photographic surveys, show that succession at these sites continues more than a decade after the original disturbance.  Hydrothermal vents have been generally characterized as being highly resilient.  However, this extended recovery time in an area subject to frequent eruptions suggests that we cannot expect vents to bounce back quickly from anthropogenic disturbance, particularly in regions that do not experience frequent disturbance.

Our results are being used in models of larval connectivity and metacommunity ecology to investigate implications for community dynamics and resilience on regional scales.  Studies of succession at vents, where the disturbance regime, geographic layout, and nutritional source are uniquely coupled with solid earth dynamics, contribute to a broader understanding of succession across terrestrial and marine habitats.  Results from this project were used in the development of the sFDvent global functional trait database for hydrothermal vent species.  Data files from this project have been uploaded to the Biological and Chemical Oceanographic Data Management Office (BCO-DMO), where they are publicly accessible.

This work has contributed to the training of undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral investigators, including several belonging to underrepresented minorities.  It is our hope that this will contribute to a diverse and well-educated population of researchers in the fields of biology and earth sciences.

Last Modified: 05/01/2018
Modified by: Lauren S Mullineaux

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