Geothermal Biodiversity

We are cataloguing New Zealand’s unique terrestrial extremophile biodiversity and ecology. See the 1000 Springs Project

Geothermal Biodiversity graphic

One feature that makes New Zealand unlike any other place on Earth is the presence of a vast array of extreme environments in a small geographical area. These include volcanic crater lakes, steaming ground, deep subsurface coal seams, hot springs and boiling mud pools. The majority of these environments are found in the Taupō Volcanic Zone (TVZ) which extends from Mt Ruapehu to White Island.

Research has shown that these environments support microorganisms that thrive under extreme physical and chemical stresses that other life forms cannot withstand.

Researchers at GNS Science are interested in detailed taxonomic, genetic, metabolic, and ecological characterisation of these microbial biota. We seek to investigate the factors that influence biocomplexity within and across the systems, and to understand the biogeochemical processes catalysed by their microbial communities.

This research will provide information for:

  • Geothermal Biodiversity 2
    Definition of these natural resources
  • Effective management of extreme ecosystems
  • Improved awareness of a unique ecosystem
  • New methods for characterising microbial biodiversity
  • Specialised capability in New Zealand
  • Springboard for scientific endeavour
  • Commercial opportunities

Examples of our research into New Zealand’s microbial biodiversity include:

  • Extremophilic microorganisms at Champagne Pool, Waiotapu
  • The variations in microbial population structures in response to temperature variations at Inferno Crater, Waimangu.
  • 1000 Spring Project.Research into the physical, chemical and microbiological diversity of 1000 hotsprings in the TVZ.
  • Acidophilic methanotrophs from the phylum Verrucomicrobia.