Not to be Sneezed at: Does Pollen from Forests of Exotic Pine Affect Deep Oceanic Trench Ecosystems?
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Pollen is ubiquitous in nearshore marine sediments; however, its potential importance for food-limited deep-seabed communities remains unknown. Here we report on the distribution of pollen to depths of 10,800 m in two Southwest Pacific trenches, as well as relationships between pollen concentrations and the sediment fauna. Pine (Pinus radiata) pollen, most likely originating from extensive plantations in New Zealand, was common in all sediment samples. These pine plantations may have altered the flux of terrestrially derived organic matter to vast stretches of the deep sea, with potential consequences for carbon sequestration and food availability. There was a significant, positive correlation between pine pollen and the abundance of infauna, which were greatest at the 7000-m-deep site in the Kermadec Trench and 10,800-m site in the Tonga Trench. This finding, together with the occurrence of pine pollen in unicellular organisms (gromiids), shows for the first time that pollen may represent food source for deep-sea benthic organisms.
KeywordsPinus radiata Cyathea spores meiofauna biomass Kermadec Trench Tonga Trench food web carbon
Funding for this project was provided by NIWA’s Coasts and Oceans Centre Research programme ‘Marine Biological Resources’, by the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), and through NIWA’s research programme ‘Impact of resource use on vulnerable deep-sea communities’ (CO1X0906). We are grateful to Tim Shank (WHOI, USA), and the other principal investigators of the HADES project (HADal Ecosystem Studies, funded by the National Science Foundation, NSF-OCE 1130712, 1130494, and 1131620), to the officers, crew, and scientific personnel of RV Thomas G. Thompson (voyage TN309), and ROV Nereus engineers and technicians. We also thank Hiroshi Kitazato (JAMSTEC, Japan) the leader of the RV Yokosuka voyage YK13-10 and thank the officers, crew, and scientific personnel of that voyage. We are indebted to Matteo Ichino (National Oceanography Centre and University of Southampton, UK) for calculating and supplying the data for relative elevation at the study sites. We are very grateful to Scott Nodder (NIWA) for his support, Gustav Kessel for analysing pollen samples, Kevin Mackay (NIWA) for his help in preparing Figure 1, and Joe Prebble (Geological and Nuclear Sciences) for his advice. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for providing constructive criticisms on the manuscript.
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