Impact of sub-seabed CO2 leakage on macrobenthic community structure and diversity

A sub-seabed release of carbon dioxide (CO2) was conducted to assess the potential impacts of leakage from sub-seabed geological CO2 Capture and Storage CCS) on benthic macrofauna. CO2 gas was released 12 m below the seabed for 37 days, causing significant disruption to sediment carbonate chemistry. Regular macrofauna samples were collected from within the area of active CO2 leakage (Zone 1) and in three additional reference areas, 25 m, 75 m and 450 m from the centre of the leakage (Zones 2, 3 and 4 respectively). Macrofaunal community structure changed significantly in all zones during the study period. However, only the changes in Zone 1 were driven by the CO2 leakage with the changes in reference zones appearing to reflect natural seasonal succession and stochastic weather events. The impacts in Zone 1 occurred rapidly (within a few days), increased in severity through the duration of the leak, and continued to worsen after the leak had stopped. Considerable macrofaunal recovery was seen 18 days after the CO2 gas injection had stopped. In summary, small short-term CCS leakage events are likely to cause highly localised impacts on macrofaunal communities and there is the potential for rapid recovery to occur, depending on the characteristics of the communities and habitats impacted.

Widdicombe S., McNeill C. L., Stahl H., Taylor P., Queirós A. M., Nunes J. & Tait K., 2015. Impact of sub-seabed CO2 leakage on macrobenthic community structure and diversity. International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control 38:182–192. Article (subscription required).


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