The submarine hydrothermal system of Panarea (Southern Italy): biogeochemical processes at the thermal fluids - sea bottom interface

C. Gugliandolo, F. Italiano, T. Maugeri


Among the submarine hydrothermal systems located offshore the volcanic archipelago of the
Aeolian Islands (Southern Italy), the most active is located off the coasts of Panarea island. Thermal
waters, gases and sulfur deposits coexist at the sea bottom where hydrothermal fluids are released
from both shallow and deep vents. The chemical and isotopic composition of the fluid phase shows
the presence of a significant magmatic component and the physico-chemical conditions of the
geothermal reservoir allow the release of reduced chemical species that are microbially mediated
towards the production of organic carbon as a form of biochemical energy. Microorganisms
inhabiting this environment possess nutritional requirements and overall metabolic pathways ideally
suited to such ecosystem that represents a clear example of the close connection between geosphere
and biosphere. Microscopic examination of the white mat attached to rock surfaces showed the
presence of Thiothrix-like filamentous bacteria. Moderately thermophilic heterotrophic isolates
were identified as strains of the genus Bacillus. Although the hydrothermal system of Panarea has
to be considered a shallow system, it shows many characteristics that make it similar to the
deep oceanic systems, giving a unique opportunity for improving our knowledge on such an
unexplored world by working at this easily accessible site.


Submarine hydrothermal activity;fluids geochemistry;sulfur deposits;microbial communities

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Published by INGV, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia - ISSN: 2037-416X