Meiobenthos from an active methane seepage area in the NW Black Sea


Nelli Sergeeva, Department of Benthos Ecology, Institute of Biology of the Southern Seas (IBSS), 2, Nakhimov Av., 99011 Sevastopol, AR Crimea, Ukraine.


Meiobenthos densities and higher taxon composition were studied in an active gas seepage area at depths from 182 to 252 m in the submarine Dnieper Canyon located in the northwestern part of the Black Sea. The meiobenthos was represented by Ciliata, Foraminifera, Nematoda, Polychaeta, Bivalvia, Gastropoda, Amphipoda, and Acarina. Also present in the sediment samples were juvenile stages of Copepoda and Cladocera which may be of planktonic origin. Nematoda and Foraminifera were the dominant groups. The abundance of the meiobenthos varied between 2397 and 52,593 ind.·m−2. Maximum densities of Nematoda and Foraminifera were recorded in the upper sediment layer of a permanent H2S zone at depths from 220 to 250 m. This dense concentration of meiobenthos was found in an area where intense methane seeps were covered by methane-oxidizing microbial mats. Results suggest that methane and its microbial oxidation products are the factors responsible for the presence of a highly sulfidic and biologically productive zone characterized by specially adapted benthic groups. At the same time, an inverse correlation was found between meiofauna densities and methane concentrations in the uppermost sediment layers. The hypothesis is that the concentration of Nematoda and Foraminifera within the areas enriched with methane is an ecological compromise between the food requirements of these organisms and their adaptations to the toxic H2S.