Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences
Published: May 30, 2017
C-DEBI Contribution Number: 367


Marine shallow-water vents are ubiquitous but poorly studied geothermal environments located worldwide between the intertidal zone and 212 m depth. Important factors differentiating them from their deep-sea counterparts include sunlight, tidal/wave pumping, meteoric water sources, terrigenous inputs, elevated metal concentrations, and abundant free gas. Mixing of vent fluids with oxidized seawater generates multiple redox disequilibria readily exploited by microbes. Although highly diverse, two major groups include an Epsilonprotebacteria-dominated community sharing similarities with deep-sea analogs, and a community dominated by Gammaproteobacteria/Firmicutes. The distribution of different microbial taxa within each vent is primarily controlled by temperature and availability of suitable electron donors and acceptors. However, the coexistence of phototrophs, chemolithoautotrophs, and a high abundance of aerobic and anaerobic heterotrophs, suggests the presence of sunlight and high organic carbon loads define unique microbial habitats that are transitionary between terrestrial and deep-sea vents. We summarize here the current knowledge of shallow-sea vents worldwide, highlighting gaps on our understanding of these unique environments.