Ecological and biotechnological relevance of Mediterranean hydrothermal vent systems

Marine hydrothermal systems are a special kind of extreme environments associated with submarine volcanic activity and characterized by harsh chemo-physical conditions, in terms of hot temperature, high concentrations of CO2 and H2S, and low pH. Such conditions strongly impact the living organisms, which have to develop adaptation strategies to survive. Hydrothermal systems have attracted the interest of researchers due to their enormous ecological and biotechnological relevance. From ecological perspective, these acidified habitats are useful natural laboratories to predict the effects of global environmental changes, such as ocean acidification at ecosystem level, through the observation of the marine organism responses to environmental extremes. In addition, hydrothermal vents are known as optimal sources for isolation of thermophilic and hyperthermophilic microbes, with biotechnological potential. This double aspect is the focus of this review, which aims at providing a picture of the ecological features of the main Mediterranean hydrothermal vents. The physiological responses, abundance, and distribution of biotic components are elucidated, by focusing on the necto-benthic fauna and prokaryotic communities recognized to possess pivotal role in the marine ecosystem dynamics and as indicator species. The scientific interest in hydrothermal vents will be also reviewed by pointing out their relevance as source of bioactive molecules.

Rizzo C., Arcadi E., Calogero R., Sciutteri V., Consoli P., Esposito V., Canese S., Andaloro F. & Romeo T., 2022. Ecological and biotechnological relevance of Mediterranean hydrothermal vent systems. Minerals 12(2): 251. doi: 10.3390/min12020251. Article.

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