Community composition and temporal change at deep Gulf of Mexico cold seeps

Stephanie Lessard-Pilon, Matthew D. Porter, Erik E. Cordes, Ian MacDonald, Charles R. Fisher

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34 Scopus citations


Specialized cold-seep communities have been known to exist in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) since the mid-1980s, but only recently has extensive research been carried out on sites at depths >1000. m. This study uses a combination of imagery and analyses within a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) framework to examine the composition of mussel and tubeworm communities at depths between 2200 and 2800. m in the Gulf of Mexico, spatial relations among the fauna, and changes in these communities over time. Photomosaics at three discrete seep communities were obtained in 2006 and a video mosaic of another community was obtained in 1992. Each of these communities was re-imaged in 2007. In addition, quantitative physical collections were made within two of the photomosaic sites and used to confirm the identification of megafauna, quantify the occurrence of smaller and cryptic macrofauna, and allow first-order calculations of biomass within the sites. Substrate type had a significant effect on community composition. Significant associations were identified between live mussels with anemones, shrimp, and sea cucumbers, and between tubeworm aggregations and Munidopsis sp. crabs and encrusting fauna, indicating differences in the composition of megafauna associated with adjacent mussel and tubeworm aggregations. Little change was seen in the total area colonized by foundation fauna (tubeworms and mussels) between years at any site. However, significant changes occurred in the positions of mussels, even over periods of a single year, at all sites, and evidence for the establishment of new tubeworm aggregations between 1992 and 2007 was noted at one site. These photomosaics provide data suggesting that environmental conditions can change over small spatial and temporal scales and mussels move in response to these changes. The successional trends are examined and compared to the patterns that have been documented in shallow (<1000-m depth) Gulf of Mexico seep communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1891-1903
Number of pages13
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
Issue number21-23
StatePublished - Nov 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography


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