Biological monitoring gets meaningful only when accompanied with physico-chemical surveys at shallow hydrothermal vents

Abstract: Marine hydrothermal vents (HVs) are unique extreme environments that provide a better understanding of evolutionary conditions of the early earth as well as projected global and climate change scenarios in marine systems (e.g., low pH due to high carbon dioxide and sulfite compounds, high temperature and turbidity, high loads of toxic chemicals such as H2S and trace metals). Particularly shallow HVs are easy to access for short and long-term experiments. Research on organisms from shallow HVs may provide insights in the molecular, environmental, and evolutionary adaptations to extreme oceanic environments by comparing them with evolutionary related but less adapted biota. A shallow water HV system at the northeast Taiwan coast has been intensively studied by several international research teams. These studies revealed astounding highlights of technological interest at the level of ecosystem (being fueled by photosynthesis and chemosynthesis), community (striking biodiversity changes due to mass mortality), population (retarded growth characteristics), individual (habitat attractive behavior), molecule (adaptations to elevated concentrations of heavy metals, low pH, and elevated temperature). The potential of shallow HVs both in their use as a template for global change scenarios and as a source for diverse bioresource information for applied technologies are highlighted here. This holds particularly for the exploration of natural products for the chemical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology industries but also for the  investigation of physiological adaptations during medically relevant processes (e.g. anoxia, high NO2 and temperature regimes, low pH). As such are rare shallow water HVs valuable assets for both research and education and deserve particular protection for their substantial bioresource information potential as rare and extreme environments and as natural heritage sites at national and international level.

ADDRESS:  Dr. HANS  [1st February 2021]

Hans-Uwe Dahms Ph.D., D.Sc., Professor, KMU – Kaohsiung Medical University

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