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Misunderstandings in the deep sea led to underestimation of the impact of seabed mining



Misunderstandings in the deep sea led to underestimation of the impact of seabed mining

During the entire dive, a diversified dense coral community appeared on the Debussy Seamount. Several colonies are very large, indicating a stable environment for many years. Credit: NOAA OER

A new publication on the impact of deep seabed mining by 1

3 well-known deep-sea biologists led by Craig Smith, a professor of oceanography at the University of Hawaii, Monoa, aims to eliminate scientific misunderstandings that have led to Miscalculated the possible impact of commercial operations. Extract minerals from the seabed.


The deep sea, with ocean depths below 650 feet (200 meters), constitutes more than 90% of the biosphere, has the most remote and extreme ecosystems on the planet, and supports biodiversity and ecosystem services of global importance. In the past decade, interest in deep-sea mining of copper, cobalt, zinc, manganese and other valuable metals has greatly increased, and mining activities are expected to begin soon.

Smith said: “As a group of deep sea ecologists, we are shocked by the misunderstandings in the scientific literature discussing the potential impact of seabed mining.” “We found that the mining footprint is underestimated, and the sensitivity and biodiversity of deep sea ecosystems Its potential to recover from the impact of mining is insufficiently understood. All authors agree that it is necessary to eliminate misunderstandings and emphasize the effects of known and unknown seabed mining in deep sea knowledge.”

In addition to the impact of mining activities on the ecosystem in the water above mining activities (as detailed in another study led by UH last month), Smith and co-authors also emphasized the impact of deep seabed mining on the seabed, where the habitat and The community will be permanently destroyed by mining.

Misunderstandings in the deep sea led to underestimation of the impact of seabed mining

A dense pink coral garden was discovered nearly 1,800 meters from the Mendellsohn Seamount. Many colonies are very large. Credit: NOAA OER.

“Most importantly, many deep-sea ecosystems will be very sensitive to seabed mining, and the scope of their influence may be much larger than predicted by mining interests, and local and regional biodiversity may suffer loss, and species may become extinct”, Smith Say.

However, it is not until years of large-scale mining operations that people can fully understand the scope of the impact of full-scale mining on mining. According to the authors, the geographic scale and the sensitivity of ecosystems to mining disturbances that have occurred continuously for decades cannot be simulated or effectively studied on a smaller scale.

Smith said: “All the simulations performed so far have not approached the scale, intensity, and duration of repeated large-scale mining.” “In addition, the computer model uses ecosystem sensitivity from shallow water communities, which are The turbidity and sediment burial under natural conditions (disturbance of mining type) are several orders of magnitude higher than those of deep-sea communities targeted for mining.

Misunderstandings in the deep sea led to underestimation of the impact of seabed mining

Sea cucumbers are nearly 3 miles (5,000 meters) deep. Credit: In-depth CCZ project

Most of the planned deep seabed mining will be concentrated in the Pacific Ocean, near Hawaii and Pacific island countries. Hawaii and Pacific island countries may be particularly exposed to any adverse environmental impacts, but may benefit from deep seabed mining, so it is necessary to understand the trade-offs of such mining.

Smith said: “According to the current plan, the mining of polymetallic nodules may eventually affect the 500,000 square kilometers of deep seabed in the Pacific Ocean. This area is equivalent to the area of ​​Spain. This may be the largest environmental footprint in a single human mining activity. “Resolving the misunderstandings and knowledge gaps related to deep sea mining is the first step in effectively managing deep sea mining.”

The researchers aim to work closely with regulators and society to help manage deep seabed mining, and emphasize that seabed mining must be carried out slowly until the impact is fully understood.


Scientists call for caution to further assess the ecological impact of deep-sea mining


More information:
Craig R. Smith and others, “Misunderstanding of the Deep Sea Leads to Underestimation of the Impact of Seabed Mining”, Ecology and evolutionary trends (2020). DOI: 10.1016 / j.tree.2020.07.002

Provided by the University of Hawaii at Manoa

Citation: Deep sea misunderstandings lead to underestimation of the impact on seabed mining (August 7, 2020), retrieved from https://phys.org/news/2020-08-deep-sea-misconceptions-underestimation-seabed-mining-impacts to 2020 August 8th.html

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