Researchers discover 5,000 species threatened by deep-sea mining

deep-sea mining vessels
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Researchers have released the first census of deep-sea animals inhabiting the open-pit seafloor of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), a region of the Pacific ocean stretching from Hawaii to Mexico and the area where the United Nations-affiliated International Seabed Authority (ISA) is preparing to allow mining to begin as soon as next year. The scientists found over 5,000 species, almost all of them unknown to science, and estimated that more than 8,000 species may live in the area. Only 438 of the 5,580 species discovered so far have been identified. The scientists estimated that at least 30% to 40% of CCZ species live on the nodules, and they are the most vulnerable to mining because when the nodules are removed, they are deprived of their habitat. The study does not include microbes that may play key roles in the food web by converting carbon into organic matter. 

Many of the nodule-dwelling species are tiny corals, sponges, and worms. Some larger animals rely on the nodules to hatch their young, including a ghostly white octopus nicknamed Casper, which lays its eggs on the stalks of dead sponges attached to rocks. However, scientists have highlighted the lack of scientific data on the potential impact of deep-sea ecosystem mining on species. The ISA’s strategy to ensure species are not becoming extinct from mining in the CCZ is to establish a network of protected areas called Areas of Particular Environmental Interest (APEI). However, almost no data was collected on species actually living in the protected areas. About 95% of the species living elsewhere in the CCZ were not recorded in the APEIs.

Tags: Deep sea mining,nodules


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