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Front. Mar. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fmars.2018.00049

Exploring the ecology of deep-sea hydrothermal vents in a metacommunity framework

  • 1Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, United States
  • 2Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, Canada
  • 3Department of Marine Biology, University of Vienna, Austria
  • 4Department of Ocean Systems, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Reseach (NIOZ), Netherlands
  • 5Institute of Ocean Sciences, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Canada
  • 6Department of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University, United States
  • 7Center for Marine Diversity and Conservation, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, United States
  • 8Marine Biophysics Unit, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Japan
  • 9Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), United States
  • 10School of Earth & Ocean Sciences and Department of Biology, University of Victoria, Canada
  • 11Department of Marine Biodiversity, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Japan
  • 12Division of EcoScience, Ewha Womans University, South Korea

Species inhabiting deep-sea hydrothermal vents are strongly influenced by the geological setting, as it provides the chemical-rich fluids supporting the food web, creates the patchwork of seafloor habitat, and generates catastrophic disturbances that can eradicate entire communities. The patches of vent habitat host a network of communities (a metacommunity) connected by dispersal of planktonic larvae. The dynamics of the metacommunity are influenced not only by birth rates, death rates and interactions of populations at the local site, but also by regional influences on dispersal from different sites. The connections to other communities provide a mechanism for dynamics at a local site to affect features of the regional biota. In this paper, we explore the challenges and potential benefits of applying metacommunity theory to vent communities, with a particular focus on effects of disturbance. We synthesize field observations to inform models and identify data gaps that need to be addressed to answer key questions including: 1) what is the influence of the magnitude and rate of disturbance on ecological attributes such as time to extinction or resilience in a metacommunity; 2) what interactions between local and regional processes control species diversity, and 3) which communities are 'hot spots' of key ecological significance. We conclude by assessing our ability to evaluate resilience of vent metacommunities to human disturbance (e.g., deep-sea mining). Although the resilience of a few highly disturbed vent systems in the eastern Pacific has been quantified, these values cannot be generalized to remote locales in the western Pacific or mid Atlantic where disturbance rates are different and information on local controls is missing.

Keywords: metacommunity, Metapopulation, hydrothermal vent, connectivity, resilience, disturbance, species diversity, Dispersal

Received: 20 Sep 2017; Accepted: 02 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Anthony Grehan, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland

Reviewed by:

Mustafa Yucel, Middle East Technical University, Turkey
Alan D. Fox, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom  

Copyright: © 2018 Mullineaux, Metaxas, Beaulieu, Bright, Gollner, Grupe, Herrera, Kellner, Levin, Mitarai, Neubert, Thurnherr, Tunnicliffe, Watanabe and Yong-Jin. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Lauren S. Mullineaux, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Biology Department, Woods Hole, United States, lmullineaux@whoi.edu