Community Structure of Macrobiota and Environmental Parameters in Shallow Water Hydrothermal Vents off Kueishan Island, Taiwan.PLoS One 2016; 11(2):e0148675Plos
Hydrothermal vents represent a unique habitat in the marine ecosystem characterized with high water temperature and toxic acidic chemistry. Vents are distributed at depths ranging from a few meters to several thousand meters. The biological communities of shallow-water vents have, however, been insufficiently studied in most biogeographic areas. We attempted to characterize the macrofauna and macroflora community inhabiting the shallow-water vents off Kueishan Island, Taiwan, to identify the main abiotic factors shaping the community structure and the species distribution. We determined that positively buoyant vent fluid exhibits a more pronounced negative impact to species on the surface water than on the bottom layer. Species richness increased with horizontal distance from the vent, and continuing for a distance of 2000 m, indicating that the vent fluid may exert a negative impact over several kilometers. The community structure off Kueishan Island displayed numerous transitions along the horizontal gradient, which were broadly congruent with changes in environmental conditions. Combination of variation in Ca2+, Cl-, temperature, pH and depth were revealed to show the strongest correlation with the change in benthic community structure, suggesting multiple factors of vent fluid were influencing the associated fauna. Only the vent crabs of Kueishan Island may have an obligated relationship with vents and inhabit the vent mouths because other fauna found nearby are opportunistic taxa that are more tolerant to acidic and toxic environments.