Travis W. Washburn http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7316-6237
Date of this Version
2018 Blackwell Verlag GmbH
There are thousands of seeps in the deep ocean worldwide; however, many questions remain about their contributions to global biodiversity and the surrounding deep‐sea environment. In addition to being globally distributed, seeps provide several benefits to humans such as unique habitats, organisms with novel genes, and carbon regulation. The purpose of this study is to determine whether there are unique seep macrobenthic assemblages, by comparing seep and nonseep environments, different seep habitats, and seeps at different depths and locations. Infaunal community composition, diversity, and abundance were examined between seep and nonseep background environments and among three seep habitats (i.e., microbial mats, tubeworms, and soft‐bottom seeps). Abundances were higher at seep sites compared to background areas. Abundance and diversity also differed among microbial mat, tubeworm, and soft‐bottom seep habitats. Although seeps contained different macrobenthic assemblages than nonseep areas, infaunal communities were also generally unique for each seep. Variability was 75% greater within communities near seeps compared to communities in background areas. Thus, high variability in community structure characterized seep communities rather than specific taxa. The lack of similarity among seep sites supports the idea that there are no specific infauna that can be used as indicators of seepage throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico, at least at higher taxonomic levels.