Volcanic Seeps

The undersea lab providing a window into the future of coral reefs.

Seep site, PNG

#The Project

Volcanic carbon dioxide seeps bubbling below isolated Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea provided a unique undersea laboratory to investigate the effects of high levels of carbon dioxide, or ocean acidification, on coral reefs and ecosystems. This unique 'window into the future' is helping scientists predict the nature of marine communities in 50 and 100 years, as carbon dioxide levels continue to rise.

This project has supported two expeditions to investigate coral reef, seagrass and plankton communities around shallow volcanic seeps of pure CO2 in Papua New Guinea.

These sites have been exposed for many decades to predicted 'end-of-century seawater CO2 concentrations'. 

The seeps represent a unique ‘natural laboratory’ to study ecosystem responses to ocean acidification.  

Six research sub-projects were conducted at the seeps: 

  1. Coral Health
  2. Calcification
  3. Physiological thresholds to high CO2
  4. Habitat Structure
  5. Seagrasses
  6. Demersal Zooplankton.



#Project partners

Australian Institute of Marine Science
University of Queensland
James Cook University