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Earthquakes shake up Kueishan Island's hydrothermal vents: spatiotemporal uncovering the secrets of shallow-water vent discharge and its interplay with surrounding marine habitats|Institute of Cellular and Organismic Biology, Academia Sinica

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Earthquakes shake up Kueishan Island's hydrothermal vents: spatiotemporal uncovering the secrets of shallow-water vent discharge and its interplay with surrounding marine habitats

Dr. Yung-Che Tseng and his team from the Marine Research Station have made significant strides in uncovering the mysteries of the shallow-water hydrothermal vent ecosystem near Kueishan Island, Taiwan. Their groundbreaking study, collaborated with Dr. Tzu-Hao Lin from Biodiversity Research Center, recently published in the journal "Limnology and Oceanography Letters", renowned for its emphasis on interdisciplinary, high-risk, and pioneering research, sheds light on the intricate relationship between seismic activities and hydrothermal discharge in this extreme environment. By employing an innovative approach that spans both time and space, the team has revealed the unique dynamics of this fascinating ecosystem and its impact on the surrounding marine habitats.

Hydrothermal vents, often located in the deep sea, are considered the closest analogs to the environments where life first emerged on Earth. However, the challenges and costs associated with studying these extreme habitats have limited our understanding of their ecological processes. The shallow-water hydrothermal vent system near Kueishan Island presents a unique proxy for scientists to overcome these obstacles. Dr. Tseng's team, leveraging the strategic location of the Marine Research Station and collaborating with a diverse group of experts in fields such as acoustics and geochemistry, has developed a groundbreaking approach to monitor changes in hydrothermal vent activity. This marks the first time that researchers have been able to track the environmental impact of a shallow-water hydrothermal vent system over an extended period of two years and across multiple surrounding habitats, showcasing the extraordinary scientific value of this "natural laboratory."

The research team's findings reveal that shallow earthquakes in close proximity to the vent sites trigger periodic changes in hydrothermal discharge, resulting in significant fluctuations in pH levels, dissolved inorganic carbon, and sulfide concentrations during active venting periods. These variations in physicochemical conditions, in turn, influence the soundscapes of the surrounding marine habitats. Remarkably, the environmental characteristics exhibit notable differences between various geologically active periods, underscoring the complexity of hydrothermal vent impacts. Furthermore, the study suggests that even distant coral ecosystems may be indirectly affected by hydrothermal activity through seasonal changes in soundscapes. These discoveries not only provide fresh perspectives on the origin of life and the evolution of early Earth environments but also offer valuable insights into the monitoring and protection of marine ecosystems in the face of climate change.

This trailblazing research highlights the pivotal role of interdisciplinary collaboration in unraveling the intricacies of the natural world. The unique location of the Marine Research Station, coupled with state-of-the-art techniques from a range of fields, including marine biology, geophysics, and bioacoustics, has enabled this groundbreaking scientific exploration. The study not only enhances our understanding of the dynamics of shallow-water hydrothermal vent ecosystems but also provides crucial scientific evidence that contributes to our knowledge of life's origins and the development of strategies to mitigate the effects of global change.

Article title: A two-year physicochemical and acoustic observation reveals spatiotemporal effects of earthquake-induced shallow-water hydrothermal venting on the surrounding environments

Article link: https://aslopubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/lol2.10412