Prolonged recovery time after eruptive disturbance of a deep-sea hydrothermal vent community
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences
Deep-sea hydrothermal vents are associated with seafloor tectonic and magmatic activity, and the communities living there are subject to disturbance. Eruptions can be frequent and catastrophic, raising questions about how these communities persist and maintain regional biodiversity. Prior studies of frequently disturbed vents have led to suggestions that faunal recovery can occur within 2–4 years. We use an unprecedented long-term (11-year) series of colonization data following a catastrophic
... ng a catastrophic 2006 seafloor eruption on the East Pacific Rise to show that faunal successional changes continue beyond a decade following the disturbance. Species composition at nine months post-eruption was conspicuously different than the pre-eruption 'baseline' state, which had been characterized in 1998 (85 months after disturbance by the previous 1991 eruption). By 96 months post-eruption, species composition was approaching the pre-eruption state, but continued to change up through to the end of our measurements at 135 months, indicating that the 'baseline' state was not a climax community. The strong variation observed in species composition across environmental gradients and successional stages highlights the importance of long-term, distributed sampling in order to understand the consequences of disturbance for maintenance of a diverse regional species pool. This perspective is critical for characterizing the resilience of vent species to both natural disturbance and human impacts such as deep-sea mining.