The Importance of Hydrothermal Vents and the Deep Sea

Here's the Reason Why Saving the Ocean is So Important.

We all know why the ocean is important. Not only is it an essential aspect of our home, but did you know that 50-80% of the Earth’s oxygen supply comes from the ocean? On top of providing us with life-giving sustenance nearly 90% of transportation occurs by sea, and over of the animal protein that we consume is produced by the ocean, which also stimulates local and global economies. If you think that’s amazing, did you know that the ocean is such a vital part of our habitat that it actually reduces the impacts of climate change? The ocean absorbs over 90% of heat and 30% of carbon dioxide emissions, reducing the overall Green House Gas emissions that are produced by us, humans. Last but not least, the oceanic ecosystems are beautiful, filled with a diversity of oceanic lifeforms that contribute to the overall wellbeing of the Earth’s planetary ecosystem.

Despite the vast benefits of the Earth’s oceans, we barely know anything about them. Only about 20% are studied, and 80% of their depths remain unexplored. Part of that 20% that we have learned about was the discovery of the Deep-Sea. From the exploration of the Galapagos Rift in 1977, researchers have concluded that even with the drastic temperature changes, there is a whole new ecosystem that is thriving - the deep sea. Along with that, there are new species and deep-sea hydrothermal vents that have been discovered.



Hydrothermal Vents

You might be wondering, what are hydrothermal vents and what do they do? These vents are openings in the seafloor that have the purpose of converting toxic minerals into usable forms of energy through Chemosynthesis. This effectively provides food and energy for the species that thrive deep in the ocean. In this environment, the process that we are familiar with, photosynthesis, is actually impossible as sunlight does not reach the seafloor. Through the process of Chemosynthesis, the vents convert sulfuric compounds into food and energy.

Hydrothermal vents are located where the tectonic plates spread apart, this is where the magma rises and cools, which then forms new crusts and mountains. After that process, seawater circulates, removing the toxic minerals and which then rises to the surface of the crust. The hot, rich with minerals, water exits and collides with the cool seawater from above. The ability of the vent organisms to convert mineral-rich hydrothermal fluid to energy is a key feature of this unique environment.



Characterization and Structures of Hydrothermal Vents

Hydrothermal vents are characterized by the type of minerals, temperature, and flow levels of their fumes.

  1. Black smoke: these vents are high in sulfur contents and forms up to 180 feet

  2. White smoke: these vents consist of cooler plumes and form smaller

  3. Seep: these are vents with cooler and weaker flow


Deep-Sea

The Deep-sea is currently facing the prominent impacts of climate change, and more exploitation is being done due to the discovery of minerals such as gold and silver. Since it makes up about 98.5 % of the volume of our planet, all sizes and species of flora and fauna live there, and it harbors the necessary elements for productivity and fisheries for the surface. Thus, further exploration is necessary for a deeper understanding of its functions. In addition to that, the deep sea reduces carbon emission, with the process of biological Pump, through sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere into the deep sea.

It was concluded that the hydrothermal vents and deep-sea environments are new sources of antibiotics and cancer-fighting chemicals. It is not unknown that the ocean provides biomedical research for medicine, but further exploiting this unique environment may further the damage that we have already caused.





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