Is Panarea Island (Italy) a valid and cost-effective natural laboratory for the development of detection and monitoring techniques for submarine CO2 seepage?

Developing reliable detection and monitoring techniques for underwater CO2 seepage and its effects on the marine environment is important for a wide range of topics; for example: volcanic surveillance, risk assessment of potential leakages from sub-seabed CO2 storage sites, and to forecast the effects of ocean acidification. A novel approach is to use areas where natural release of CO2 is present as ‘field-laboratories’ for validation of CO2 monitoring techniques and procedures. One such area was identified close to the volcanic island of Panarea (Italy). Here, CO2 seeps from the seafloor in shallow water allowing scuba divers to collect the needed data. Moreover, the coastal setting allows use of small boats for the marine operations, thus strongly reducing the costs. The applied study techniques examined are mainly sampling methods for free and dissolved gases, direct measurement of the CO2 fluxes, pH measurement along the water column, and verification of the impact of CO2 on the local environment.

From these first results, the submarine degassing area of Panarea can be realistically considered a natural laboratory where it is possible to test and validate detection methods for the prompt identification of potential seepage from sub-seabed CO2 storage areas. The particularly favorable environment permits the use of simplified logistics, thus reducing the costs of the research to almost negligible values if compared with any high-seas operation.

Caramanna G., Voltattorni N., & Maroto-Valer M. M., 2011. Is Panarea Island (Italy) a valid and cost-effective natural laboratory for the development of detection and monitoring techniques for submarine CO2 seepage? Greenhouse Gases: Science and Technology 1(3):200-2010. Article (subscription required).


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