Suitability of the shallow water hydrothermal system at Ambitle Island (Papua New Guinea) to study the effect of high pCO2 on coral reefs

Highlights

• Volcanic CO2vents and seeps acidify Tutum Bay
• HCorals survive at pH levels lower than climate change projected levels for the end of this century
• Hydrothermal vents in Tutum Bay are enriched in some metals, but concentrations are quickly diluted by mixing with seawater
• Surface water was enriched in arsenic and silica, although reef values were found to be lower

Abstract

Volcanic CO2 seeps were successfully used to predict coral reef response to ocean acidification, although toxic elements, often characteristic of hydrothermal vents were rarely reported. We measured the physicochemical conditions, seawater carbonate chemistry and trace elements in Tutum Bay, Papua New Guinea. There, intense emission of hydrothermal fluids and CO2 expose the coral reef to a seawater pHT between 7.6 and 7.7.
Arsenic and silica were enriched by up to six times in surface seawater, while bottom concentrations were lower and thus similar to coral reefs worldwide. Manganese, cesium, iron and zinc concentrations fell into the range of other coastal environments. Our measurements suggest that Tutum Bay is a suitable site to study the response of coral reefs to high pCO2. Considering that arsenic is a common metal in hydrothermal fluids, its characterization should be included in any study that uses volcanic CO2 seeps as natural laboratories for ocean acidification.

Pichler T., Biscéré T., Kinch J., Zampighi M., Houlbrèque F. & Rodolfo-Metalpa R., 2019. Suitability of the shallow water hydrothermal system at Ambitle Island (Papua New Guinea) to study the effect of high pCO2 on coral reefs. Marine Pollution Bulletin 138: 148-158. Article.

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