Title

Beyond the vent: New perspectives on hydrothermal plumes and pelagic biology

Document Type

Article

Date of Original Version

3-1-2017

Abstract

Submarine hydrothermal vent fields introduce buoyant plumes of chemically altered seawater to the deep-sea water column. Chemoautotrophic microbes exploit this energy source, facilitating seafloor-based primary production that evidence suggests may transfer to pelagic consumers. While most hydrothermal plumes have relatively small volumes, there are recent examples of large-scale plume events associated with periods of eruptive activity, which have had a pronounced effect on water-column biology. This correlation suggests that hydrothermal plumes may have influenced basin-scale ocean chemistry during periods of increased submarine volcanism during the Phanerozoic eon. This paper synthesizes a growing body of scientific evidence supporting the hypothesis that hydrothermal plumes are the energetic basis of unique deep-sea pelagic food webs. While many important questions remain concerning the biology of hydrothermal plumes, this discussion is not present in ongoing management efforts related to seafloor massive sulfide (SMS) mining. Increased research efforts, focused on high-resolution surveys of midwater biology relative to plume structures, are recommended to establish baseline conditions and monitor the impact of future mining-based disturbances to the pelagic biosphere.

Publication Title

Deep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography

Volume

137

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