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Faunal communities at sites of gas- and oil-bearing fluids in Lake Baikal

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Abstract

Macro- and meiofaunal communities were examined at four geomorphologically distinct sites with different gas- and oil-bearing fluid characteristics in the northern, central and southern basins of Lake Baikal. All sites had elevated concentrations of bicarbonate, nitrate, sulphate and chloride ions in pore fluids, with highest values at the Frolikha vent. Elevated levels of iron ions were found in pore waters of the St. Petersburg methane seep and the Gorevoy Utes oil seep. The chemical composition of pore waters at the Malenky mud volcano was similar to that reported in earlier work. Consistent with published data, the Frolikha vent (northern basin) and the St. Petersburg methane seep (central basin) were characterised by methane of mixed genesis (thermogenic + biogenic), whereas the methane source was mainly thermogenic at the Gorevoy Utes oil seep (central basin) and biogenic at the Malenky mud volcano (southern basin). In contrast to marine seep ecosystems, the macrofauna was dominated only by amphipods, giant planarians and oligochaetes, whereas bivalves were absent; the meiofauna was similar to its marine counterpart, being dominated by nematodes, cyclops, harpacticoids and ostracods. A statistically significant positive relationship was revealed between faunal abundance and the availability of bacterial mats on seep sediments. Moreover, ANOVA tests showed significant increases in both meiozoobenthic and macrozoobenthic densities at “hot spot” vent/seep sites relative to discharge-free reference sites. The isotopic composition of carbon and nitrogen at various trophic levels of these benthic vent/seep communities was found to differ markedly from that reported by earlier studies for the pelagic and other benthic food webs in Lake Baikal. As in marine seeps, the macrofauna had variable isotopic signatures. Light δ13C and δ15N values suggest the utilization of chemosynthetically fixed and/or methane-derived organic matter. By contrast, the heavy δ13C signatures of some mobile amphipods likely reflect consumption of photosynthetically derived carbon. These findings would at least partly explain why Lake Baikal is a notable outlier in global temperature–biodiversity patterns, exhibiting the highest biodiversity of any lake worldwide but at an extremely cold average temperature.

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Acknowledgements

The service of the deepwater manned Mir submersible was organised and financially supported by Fund of the Conservation of Lake Baikal, and the Metropol Company. The authors are grateful to A. Bityutsky, captain of the research vessel Koptyug, and M. Sakirko for their assistance during the expedition, to Prof. L.A. Kutikova for rotifer identification, and to G. Nagornaya for translating the manuscript. The work was supported by SB RAS Integration project no. 27, RFFR project no. 10-04-10100-k, RAS Presidium Programme project no. 21.9 and RFFR project no. 12-05-98011. The authors are very thankful to A. Rowden, an anonymous reviewer, and the journal editor M.T. Delafontaine for useful comments.

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Zemskaya, T.I., Sitnikova, T.Y., Kiyashko, S.I. et al. Faunal communities at sites of gas- and oil-bearing fluids in Lake Baikal. Geo-Mar Lett 32, 437–451 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00367-012-0297-8

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