As part of the Oceano Azul scientific expedition, a new hydrothermal field has been discovered in the Azores.
The Oceano Azul Foundation brought together researchers from the University of the Azores, of the Waitt foundation, National Geographic Pristine Seas, in partnership with the Regional Government of the Azores.
The use of the Portuguese ROV "Luso" aboard the vessel "PNR Almirante Gago Coutinho" enabled the mapping of the Seamount Gigante, 98 kms. from the island of Faial and the discovery of a new deep hydrothermal field, at least 570 meters, of great biological and mineral wealth.
Bathymetric map of the Gigante submarine volcano, located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, separating the North American and Eurasian plates - Doc. Instituto Hidrográfico da Marinha Portuguesa.
Telmo Morato, coordinator of the Ocean Azul Expedition Team for Deep Ecosystems and researcher at Imar, and the University of the Azores, states that " hydrothermal fields are areas where hot fluids emerge, often related to volcanism, rich in minerals that create the conditions for the development of a unique ecosystem that does not depending on sunlight.The hydrothermal field now discovered consists of several chimneys of different heights.The hydrothermal fluids are transparent, a little warmer than the outside and rich in carbon dioxide.
The existence of chemosynthetic bacteria associated with this hydrothermal field has been demonstrated; they are able to support a specialized food chain, in a medium without light. This discovery of the Ocean Azul expedition shows that there is still much to discover in the Portuguese Sea, the Azores being a unique region for the study of the deep sea. "
Chimney of the new hydrothermal field of the Gigante seamount - a disturbance overcomes the vent, testifying to a emission of hot fluids - image taken by ROV Luso / EMEPC - Estrutura de Missão para a Extensão da Plataforma Continental
Most of the hydrothermal fields located in the border areas of the divergent tectonic plates, such as the mid-Atlantic ridge that separates the western group from the central group of the Azores archipelago, where Seamount Gigante is located, are areas of great biological and mineral wealth, real hidden oases at the bottom of the ocean, which are usually kilometers deep and hundreds of kilometers away from coastal areas.
For the moment, only 3% of the oceans are protected, and the team of the European Union Horizon 2020 - Atlas Project, on board, collected information that will better understand how hydrothermal vents ecosystems meet the criteria of VMEs / Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems required by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
Professor Murray Roberts, coordinator of the ATLAS project at the University of Edinburgh, said: " It shows how little we know about the deep sea, the largest ecosystem on our planet. The last 20 years have shown that the minerals they release also have important consequences for life in the ocean. As deep ore mining plans are developed around the world, it is absolutely essential to understand these relationships to protect the oceans and the oceans. support functions they provide, all life on Earth. "
- EMEPC - Oceano Azul Expedição descobre novo campo hidrotermal our Azores - link
- Physorg - extraordinary hydrothermal wind discovery in the mid Atlantic Ocean - 22.06.2018 - link
- Frontiers in Marine Science - Deep Sea Environments and Ecology - Persistent enhancement of micronekton backscatter at the summits of seamounts in the Azores - 07.02.2017 - link