Deep-sea hydrothermal vents and the surrounding basalt seafloor are subject to major natural disturbance events such as volcanic eruptions. In the near future, anthropogenic disturbance in the form of deep-sea mining could also significantly affect the faunal communities of hydrothermal vents. In this study, we monitor and compare the recovery of insular, highly productive vent communities and vent-proximate basalt communities following a volcanic eruption that destroyed almost all existing communities at the East Pacific Rise, 9°50'N in 2006. To study the recovery patterns of the benthic communities, we placed settlement substrates at vent sites and their proximate basalt areas and measured the prokaryotic abundance and compared the meio- and macrofaunal species richness and composition at one, two and four years after the eruption. In addition, we collected samples from the overlying water column with a pelagic pump, at one and two years after the volcanic eruption, to determine the abundance of potential meiofauna colonisers. One year after eruption, mean meio- and macrofaunal abundances were not significantly different from pre-eruption values in vent habitats (meio: 8-1838ind. 64cm-2 in 2006; 3-6246ind. 64cm-2 in 2001/02; macro: 95-1600ind. 64cm-2 in 2006; 205-4577ind. 64cm-2 in 2001/02) and on non-vent basalt habitats (meio: 10-1922ind. 64cm-2 in 2006; 8-328ind. 64cm-2 in 2003/04; macro: 14-3351ind. 64cm-2 in 2006; 2-63ind. 64cm-2 in 2003/04), but species recovery patterns differed between the two habitat types. In the vent habitat, the initial community recovery was relatively quick but incomplete four years after eruption, which may be due to the good dispersal capabilities of vent endemic macrofauna and vent endemic dirivultid copepods. At vents, 42% of the pre-eruption meio- and 39% of macrofaunal species had returned. In addition, some new species not evident prior to the eruption were found. At the tubeworm site Tica, a total of 26 meio- and 19 macrofaunal species were found in 2009, which contrasts with the 24 meio- and 29 macrofauna species detected at the site in 2001/02. In the basalt habitat, community recovery of meiofauna was slower with only 28% of the original 64 species present four years after eruption. The more limited dispersal capabilities of meiofauna basalt specialists such as nematodes or harpacticoid copepods probably caused this pattern. In contrast, 67% of the original 27 macrofaunal species had recolonized the basalt by 2009. Our results suggest that not only vent communities, but also species-rich communities of vent-proximate habitats require attention in conservation efforts.
Gollner, S., Govenar, B., Arbizu, P. M., Mills, S., Le Bris, N., Weinbauer, M., … Bright, M. (2015). Differences in recovery between deep-sea hydrothermal vent and vent-proximate communities after a volcanic eruption. Deep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, 106, 167–182. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr.2015.10.008