There are many unique plants and organisms which have adapted to living in and around geothermal surface features. Some plants such as prostrate kanuka can only be found in geothermal areas and many are listed as threatened or at risk.
Geothermal surface features provide microclimates as they make the immediately surrounding area different than the wider environment. This allows plants and animals to develop and interact in unique ways.
In our region, we have a quarter of New Zealand’s geothermal vegetation. Some geothermal areas have plant associations that are found nowhere else in the world. All these species are uniquely important to our genetic biodiversity.
Diverse life forms and their genetic material provides many unique opportunities for the future. An example of this is the use of bacteria that thrive at extreme temperatures being used in industrial processes.
For more information see the ‘1000 springs’ website which is a catalogue of the microbial biodiversity and geochemical information for geothermal features across the Bay of Plenty and the central North Island. This research is being jointly undertaken by GNS Science and the University of Waikato, with funding support from Central Government.
Inferno Crater Lake, Waimangu Geothermal Field
Image: © GNS Science