A unique temperate rocky coastal hydrothermal vent system (Whakaari–White Island, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand): constraints for ocean acidification studies

In situ effects of ocean acidification are increasingly studied at submarine CO2 vents. Here we present a preliminary investigation into the water chemistry and biology of cool temperate CO2 vents near Whakaari–White Island, New Zealand. Water samples were collected inside three vent shafts, within vents at a distance of 2 m from the shaft and at control sites. Vent samples contained both seawater pH on the total scale (pHT) and carbonate saturation states that were severely reduced, creating conditions as predicted for beyond the year 2100. Vent samples showed lower salinities, higher temperatures and greater nutrient concentrations. Sulfide levels were elevated and mercury levels were at concentrations considered toxic at all vent and control sites, but stable organic and inorganic ligands were present, as deduced from Cu speciation data, potentially mediating harmful effects on local organisms. The biological investigations focused on phytoplankton, zooplankton and macroalgae. Interestingly, we found lower abundances but higher diversity of phytoplankton and zooplankton at sites in the direct vicinity of Whakaari. Follow-up studies will need a combination of methods and approaches to attribute observations to specific drivers. The Whakaari vents represent a unique ecosystem with considerable biogeochemical complexity, which, like many other vent systems globally, require care in their use as a model of ‘future oceans’.

Zitoun R., Connell S. D., Cornwall C. E., Currie K. I., Fabricius K., Hoffmann L. J., Lamare M. D., Murdoch J., Noonan S., Sander S. G., Sewell M. A., Shears N. T., K , van den Berg C. M. G. & Smith A. M., 2019. A unique temperate rocky coastal hydrothermal vent system (Whakaari–White Island, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand): constraints for ocean acidification studies. Marine and Freshwater research. Article.

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