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Meiofauna hotspot in the Atacama Trench, eastern South Pacific Ocean
Danovaro, R.; Gambi, C.; Della Croce, N. (2002). Meiofauna hotspot in the Atacama Trench, eastern South Pacific Ocean. Deep-Sea Res., Part 1, Oceanogr. Res. Pap. 49(5): 843-857
In: Deep-Sea Research, Part I. Oceanographic Research Papers. Elsevier: Oxford. ISSN 0967-0637; e-ISSN 1879-0119, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Danovaro, R., more
  • Gambi, C., more
  • Della Croce, N.

    Meiofaunal assemblages were investigated (in terms of abundance, biomass, individual size and community structure) at bathyal and hadal depths (from 1050 to 7800 m) in the Atacama Trench in the upwelling sector of the eastern South Pacific Ocean, in relation to the distribution and availability of potential food sources (phytopigments, biochemical compounds and bacterial biomass) in this highly productive region. Meiofaunal density and biomass in the Atacama Trench were one to two orders of magnitude higher than values reported in other "oligotrophic" hadal systems. The Atacama Trench presented very high concentrations of nutritionally rich organic matter at 7800-m depth and displayed characteristics typical of eutrophic systems. Surprisingly, despite a decrease in chlorophyll-a and organic matter concentrations of about 50% from bathyal to hadal depths, meiofaunal abundance in hadal sediments was 10-fold higher than at bathyal depths. As indicated by the higher protein to carbohydrate ratio observed in trench sediments, the extraordinarily high meiofaunal density reported in the Atacama Trench was more dependent upon organic matter quality than on its quantity. The trophic richness of the system was reflected by a shift of the size structure of the benthic organisms. In contrast with typical trends of deep-sea systems, the ratio of bacterial to meiofaunal biomass decreased with increasing depth and, in the Atacama Trench, meiofaunal biomass largely dominated total benthic biomass. Nematodes at 7800-m depth accounted for more than 80% of total density and about 50% of total meiofaunal biomass. In hadal sediments a clear meiofaunal dwarfism was observed: the individual body size of nematodes and other taxa was reduced by 30-40% compared to individuals collected at bathyal depths. The peculiarity of this trophic-rich system allows rejection of previous hypotheses, which explained deep-sea dwarfism by the extremely oligotrophic conditions typical of deep-sea regions.

  • Danovaro, R. (1997). Meiofauna and nematodes from the Atacama slope and trench. Polytechnic University of Marche; Faculty of Sciences; Department of Marine Sciences, Italy., more

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