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Concept: Aeolian Islands


This research aims to define for the first time levels and patterns of different litter groups (macro, meso and microplastics) in sediments from a marine area designed for the institution of a new marine protected area (Aeolian Archipelago, Italy). Microplastics resulted the principal group and found in all samples analyzed, with shape and colours variable between different sampling sites. MPs levels measured in this study are similar to values recorded in harbour sites and lower than reported in Adriatic Sea, while macroplastics levels are notably lower than in harbor sites. Sediment grain-size and island extent resulted not significant in determining levels and distribution of plastic debris among islands. In the future, following the establishment of the MPA in the study area, these basic data will be useful to check for potential protective effects on the levels and distribution of plastic debris.

Concepts: Sediment, Mediterranean Sea, Italy, Sicily, Tyrrhenian Sea, Island, Etruscan civilization, Aeolian Islands


The geological, biological and geochemical features of a particular field of hydrothermal vents, discovered in the Panarea Volcanic Complex during a research survey carried out in 2015, are described for the first time. The site, located at 70-80 m depth off the South-western coast of the islet of Basiluzzo, was named Smoking Land for the presence of a large number of wide and high active chimneys and was characterized in terms of dissolved benthic fluxes, associated macrofauna and megafauna communities and preliminary mineralogy and geochemistry of chimney structures. On the whole field, a total of 39 chimneys, different in size and shape, were closely observed and described; 14 of them showed emission of low temperature hydrothermal fluids of marine origin characterized by acidified chemical conditions. The CTD and benthic chamber measurements highlighted that the Smoking Land is able to form a sea water bottom layer characterized by variable acidity and high DIC and trace elements concentrations; these characteristics weaken moving away from the chimney mouths. The SEM-EDS analysis of the collected solid samples revealed a chimney structure principally composed by amorphous and low crystalline Fe-oxyhydroxides of hydrothermal origins. The ROV explorations revealed a wide coverage of red algae (Peyssonnelia spp.) colonized by the green algae Flabiella petiolata and by suspension feeders, mainly sponges, but also bryozoans, and tubicolous polychaetes. Although novent-exclusive species were identified, the benthic communities found in association to the chimneys included more taxa than those observed in the surrounding no-vent rocky areas. These first findings evidence a submarine dynamic habitat where geological, chemical and biological processes are intimately connected, making the Smoking Land an important site in terms of marine heritage that should be safeguarded and protected.

Concepts: Algae, Oxygen, Chemistry, Hydrothermal vent, Chimney, Sicily, Aeolian Islands, Chimney fire


We present elastic wave velocity and strength data from a suite of three volcanic rocks taken from the volcanic edifices of El Hierro and Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain), and Stromboli (Aeolian Islands, Italy). These rocks span a range of porosity and are taken from volcanoes that suffer from edifice instability. We measure elastic wave velocities at known incident angles to the generated through-going fault as a function of imposed strain, and examine the effect of the damage zone on P-wave velocity. Such data are important as field measurements of elastic wave tomography are key tools for understanding volcanic regions, yet hidden fractures are likely to have a significant effect on elastic wave velocity. We then use elastic wave velocity evolution to calculate concomitant crack density evolution which ranges from 0 to 0.17: highest values were correlated to the damage zone in rocks with the highest initial porosity.

Concepts: Canary Islands, Group velocity, Volcano, Sicily, El Hierro, Valverde, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Teide, Aeolian Islands


A metagenomic fosmid expression library established from environmental DNA (eDNA) from the shallow hot vent sediment sample collected from the Levante Bay, Vulcano Island (Aeolian archipelago) was established in Escherichia coli. Using activity-based screening assays, we have assessed 9600 fosmid clones corresponding to approximately 350 Mbp of the cloned eDNA, for the lipases/esterases/lactamases, haloalkane and haloacid dehalogenases, and glycoside hydrolases. Thirty-four positive fosmid clones were selected from the total of 120 positive hits and sequenced to yield ca. 1360 kbp of high-quality assemblies. Fosmid inserts were attributed to the members of ten bacterial phyla, including Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Acidobateria, Firmicutes, Verrucomicrobia, Chloroflexi, Spirochaetes, Thermotogae, Armatimonadetes, and Planctomycetes. Of ca. 200 proteins with high biotechnological potential identified therein, we have characterized in detail three distinct α/β-hydrolases (LIPESV12_9, LIPESV12_24, LIPESV12_26) and one new α-arabinopyranosidase (GLV12_5). All LIPESV12 enzymes revealed distinct substrate specificities tested against 43 structurally diverse esters and 4 p-nitrophenol carboxyl esters. Of 16 different glycosides tested, the GLV12_5 hydrolysed only p-nitrophenol-α-(L)-arabinopyranose with a high specific activity of about 2.7 kU/mg protein. Most of the α/β-hydrolases were thermophilic and revealed a high tolerance to, and high activities in the presence of, numerous heavy metal ions. Among them, the LIPESV12_24 was the best temperature-adapted, retaining its activity after 40 min of incubation at 90 °C. Furthermore, enzymes were active in organic solvents (e.g., >30 % methanol). Both LIPESV12_24 and LIPESV12_26 had the GXSXG pentapeptides and the catalytic triads Ser-Asp-His typical to the representatives of carboxylesterases of EC

Concepts: Protein, Bacteria, Gut flora, Molecular biology, Enzyme, Escherichia coli, Hydrolysis, Aeolian Islands


The identification of geographical origin of food products is important for both consumers and producers to ensure quality and avoid label falsifications. The caper plant (Capparis spinosa L., Brassicales Capparidaceae), a xerophytic shrub common in the Mediterranean area, produces buds and fruits that are commercialized in brine at high price. Those grown in Italy in the Aeolian Islands are renowned for their high quality. This study is aimed to establish a correlation between the geological and geochemical features of soil and the chemical composition of caper buds grown in two Aeolian Islands, Lipari and Salina. Major and trace elements were investigated by X-ray fluorescence and inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry in soil and caper samples from three localities in Lipari and Salina, and data from the three sites were compared by a nonparametric test, a correlation test and multivariate statistics (principal component analysis). The results allowed to discriminate soils according to geolithological characteristics of each area and detect a statistically significant correspondence between soil and caper samples for the elements Co, Fe, Mg and Rb, identifying thus possible geochemical caper fingerprints of origin. These results may also be useful to protect the high quality of Aeolian caper products by a suitable “Made in Italy” trademark and avoid falsifications and frauds.

Concepts: Statistics, Multivariate statistics, Sicily, Caper, Capparis, Capparaceae, Brassicales, Aeolian Islands


Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is a major component of magmatic gas discharges. Once emitted in the atmosphere it can affect the air and land environment at different spatial and temporal scales, with harmful effects on human health and plant communities. We used a dense dataset of continuous SO2 flux and meteorological measurements collected at Vulcano over an 8-year period spanning from May 2008 to February 2016 to model air SO2 concentrations over the island. To this end, we adopted the DISGAS (DISpersion of GAS) numerical code coupled with the Diagnostic Wind Model (DWM). SO2 concentrations in air were determined for three different SO2 emission rates: a reference SO2 flux of ∼18 t/d (the median of more than 800 measurements), an enhanced SO2 flux of 40 t/d (average of all measurements plus 1 σ), and a maximum SO2 flux of 106 t/d (maximum value measured in the investigated period). Maximum SO2 concentrations in air were estimated at the crater, near the high-T fumarole field that is the source of the gas, and ranged from 2000 ppb to ∼24,000 ppb for the reference flux, from 2000 ppb to 51,000 ppb for the enhanced flux and from 5000 ppb to 136,000 ppb for the maximum flux, with peak values in limited areas at the bottom of the crater. These concentrations pose a hazard for people visiting the crater, for sensitive individuals in particular. Based on estimated SO2 concentrations in air, we also consider the phytotoxic effects of SO2 on local vegetation.

Concepts: Oxygen, Sulfur, Atmosphere, Volcano, Sulfur dioxide, Sicily, Aeolian Islands, Vulcano


Leishmaniosis caused by Leishmania infantum is one of the most important vector-borne diseases affecting animals and humans worldwide. Dogs are considered main reservoirs of the zoonotic forms, though in the last years the role of cats as reservoirs has been increasingly investigated. Feline leishmaniosis (FeL) occurs in endemic areas and no specific preventive measures have been investigated so far. In this study the efficacy of a 10% imidacloprid/4.5% flumethrin polymer matrix collar, licensed for tick and flea prevention, has been assessed against FeL in a longitudinal study on 204 privately owned cats from the Aeolian islands (Sicily), an area highly endemic for the disease. From March to May 2015 [Study Day 0 (SD 0)], cats negative for FeL were collared (G1, n = 104) or left untreated (G2, n = 100). Diagnosis consisted of serology and qPCR on blood and conjunctival swabs, which were collected at baseline (SD 0) and at the end of the study (SD 360). Interim clinical examinations were performed on SD 210 (when collars were replaced in G1) and SD 270.

Concepts: Longitudinal study, Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Causality, Sicily, Collar, Aeolian Islands


Ammonium- and Fe(II)-rich fluid flows, known from deep-sea hydrothermal systems, have been extensively studied in the last decades and are considered as sites with high microbial diversity and activity. Their shallow-submarine counterparts, despite their easier accessibility, have so far been under-investigated, and as a consequence, much less is known about microbial communities inhabiting these ecosystems. A field of shallow expulsion of hydrothermal fluids has been discovered at depths of 170-400 meters off the base of the Basiluzzo Islet (Aeolian Volcanic Archipelago, Southern Tyrrhenian Sea). This area consists predominantly of both actively diffusing and inactive 1-3 meters-high structures in the form of vertical pinnacles, steeples and mounds covered by a thick orange to brown crust deposits hosting rich benthic fauna. Integrated morphological, mineralogical, and geochemical analyses revealed that, above all, these crusts are formed by ferrihydrite-type Fe(3+) oxyhydroxides. Two cruises in 2013 allowed us to monitor and sampled this novel ecosystem, certainly interesting in terms of shallow-water iron-rich site. The main objective of this work was to characterize the composition of extant communities of iron microbial mats in relation to the environmental setting and the observed patterns of macrofaunal colonization. We demonstrated that iron-rich deposits contain complex and stratified microbial communities with a high proportion of prokaryotes akin to ammonium- and iron-oxidizing chemoautotrophs, belonging to Thaumarchaeota, Nitrospira, and Zetaproteobacteria. Colonizers of iron-rich mounds, while composed of the common macrobenthic grazers, predators, filter-feeders, and tube-dwellers with no representatives of vent endemic fauna, differed from the surrounding populations. Thus, it is very likely that reduced electron donors (Fe(2+) and NH4(+) ) are important energy sources in supporting primary production in microbial mats, which form a habitat-specific trophic base of the whole Basiluzzo hydrothermal ecosystem, including macrobenthic fauna.

Concepts: Bacteria, Iron, Microbiology, Ecosystem, Hydrothermal vent, Sicily, Tyrrhenian Sea, Aeolian Islands


Despite their medical and veterinary importance, some tick species are so poorly studied, that their role within pathogen vector transmission cycles is difficult to assess. The tick Ixodes ventalloi is one such species, and its biology and phylogenetic status remain an issue of debate. In the present study, specimens of adult I. ventalloi (n = 65 females; n = 31 males) infesting cats in the Lipari Island (Aeolian archipelago, Sicily, southern Italy) were characterized morphologically and molecularly, the latter based on mitochondrial 16S rRNA and cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (cox1) genes. The genetic data and phylogenetic analyses for both mitochondrial genes suggest the existence of two distinct genogroups. The ecological and epidemiological significance of the genetic structure within the I. ventalloi endemic population remains to be determined. The results highlight the need for further analysis of this tick species, including whole mitochondrial genome sequencing and crossbreeding studies, which will be pivotal to complement features of its status as a vector of pathogens.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Bacteria, Molecular biology, Biology, Organism, Sicily, Aeolian Islands


Sediment samplings were performed to investigate the microphytobenthic community and photosynthetic activity adaptations to gas emissions and higher temperature in the Aeolian Islands during a three-year period (2012-2014). Higher microphytobenthic densities were recorded at the vent stations and values were even more pronounced in relation with high temperature. The gross primary production estimates strongly depended on microphytobenthic abundance values reaching up to 45.79 ± 6.14 mgC m(-2) h(-1). High abundances were coupled with low community richness and diversity. Motile diatom living forms were predominant at all stations and the greatest differences among vent and reference stations were detected on the account of the tychopelagic forms. Morphological deformities and heavily silicified diatom frustules were also observed. A significant influence of the gas emission and high temperature on the phototrophic community was highlighted suggesting the Aeolian Islands as a good natural laboratory for studies on high CO2 and global warming effects.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Carbon dioxide, Greenhouse gas, Global warming, Sicily, Tyrrhenian Sea, Chemosynthesis, Aeolian Islands