Infaunal macroinvertebrates were characterized along an environmental gradient from a shallow-water hydrothermal vent located at Tutum Bay, Ambitle Island, Papua New Guinea. Samples were collected at three sites located at 7.5, 60, and 150 m from the vent and from a nonhydrothermal reference site located to the north. Temperature and arsenic concentration were found to decrease and pH increased with distance away from the vent. At each site, five replicate core samples were taken randomly from a 1 m2 sampling grid. All infaunal invertebrates > 500 µm were sorted, identified to the lowest practical taxonomic level and counted. Results from the macrofauna data show a strong trend of increasing abundance, species richness and diversity relative to distance away from the vent, but even at 150 m the benthic macrofauna appeared to be depressed relative to the reference site. Mollusks were completely absent 7.5 m from the vent, rare at 60 m, and abundant at 150 m, suggesting that the low pH values associated with the hydrothermal activity play an important role in the benthic community structure.
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Vol. 64 • No. 3