Environmental consequences of expanded recruitment of an ecosystem engineer on a hypoxia-influenced continental shelf

In collaboration with Dr. Sarah Henkel of OSU and with support from the National Science Foundation we are conducting a project to address the potential ecological consequences of a new member to Oregon and Washington shelf benthic communities, the ghost shrimp Neotrypaea.  We are using seafloor video and box core sample collections to ground-truth Neotrypaea’s offshore distribution which has been documented as becoming abundant since the Marine Heat Wave of 2015 (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2022.107936). In July and September 2022, we measured benthic oxygen fluxes by aquatic eddy covariance and measured O2, nutrient and TCO2 fluxes by core incubations to characterize shelf areas with and without abundant shrimp. Our goal is to determine how these shrimp, and the abiotic and biotic impacts of their burrows, change the overall productivity of the mid-shelf benthos relative to reference areas. The offshore distributions and impacts of these ecosystem engineers are important to characterize as they may stabilize a benthic food supply for higher trophic levels, impact fisheries, and significantly alter seafloor structure and biogeochemistry contributing to hypoxia.

Figure 1. Neotrypaea are being found in high abundance in sandy sediments on the mid-shelf at depths of 50-75 m.  This photo shows a core that captured a shrimp and its burrow.
Figure 2.  Science team on the R/V Robert Gordon Sproul in September 2022.  Left to right: Zac Luna, Clare Reimers, Sarah Henkel, Hannah Glover, Dan Wildrick, Matt Vaughan, Anna Hughes, Pete Chace, Abby Tomita, Christian Noll.

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