The White Island Blitz: Investigating a Southern Hemisphere temperate vent system

Chair: Ulf Riebesell

Abigail M Smith (1), Miles D. Lamare (1), Sylvia G. Sander (2), Sally Carson (3), the White Island Blitz Team
1 Department of Marine Science, University of Otago, Dunedin 9010, New Zealand
2 Department of Chemistry, University of Otago, Dunedin 9010, New Zealand
3 New Zealand Marine Studies Centre, University of Otago, Portobello, New Zealand

Natural CO 2 vents allow study of the effects of climate change on marine organisms on a different scale from laboratory-based studies. The advantages of acclimated organisms, integrated ecosystems and natural variability outweigh the disadvantages that may be posed by emissions such as sulphur or copper. This study outlines a preliminary investigation into the suitability of natural CO2 vents near White Island, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand (37°31.19°S, 117°10.85°E) for climate change research by characterising water chemistry, planktonic communities, and benthic algae and invertebrates from vent and control locations during a single week in the (southern) spring.

A “blitz” consisting of 17 scientists from 8 institutions in New Zealand, Australia, New Caledonia, Belgium, Germany and the UK was undertaken in early December 2015. Divers and snorkelers on two vessels sampled vent gases, water, plants and animals. Moored instruments collected data on water movement, temperature, salinity, and pH all week long. At the same time, a shore-based team conveyed information about the importance of vent communities to local tourist operators, media, the public, teachers, and school children.

Preliminary data suggest that White Island can provide a suitable natural laboratory for studying temperate marine systems of the future. More than that, we demonstrate the usefulness of multi-scientist expeditions to ascertain connections and relationships in a volcanic vent setting. We also reflect on the importance of community involvement and engagement when engaging in major scientific expeditions.