Ecology of a polymetallic nodule occurrence gradient: Implications for deep‐sea mining

Simon‐Lledo, Erik, Bett, Brian J., Huvenne, Veerle A. I., Schoening, Timm, Benoist, Noelie M. A. and Jones, Daniel O. B. (2019) Ecology of a polymetallic nodule occurrence gradient: Implications for deep‐sea mining Limnology and Oceanography Letters, 64 (5). pp. 1883-1894. DOI 10.1002/lno.11157.

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Abyssal polymetallic nodule fields constitute an unusual deep-sea habitat. The mix of soft sediment and the hard substratum provided by nodules increases the complexity of these environments. Hard substrata typically support a very distinct fauna to that of seabed sediments, and its presence can play a major role in the structuring of benthic assemblages. We assessed the influence of seafloor nodule cover on the megabenthos of a marine conservation area (area of particular environmental interest 6) in the Clarion Clipperton Zone (3950–4250 m water depth) using extensive photographic surveys from an autonomous underwater vehicle. Variations in nodule cover (1–20%) appeared to exert statistically significant differences in faunal standing stocks, some biological diversity attributes, faunal composition, functional group composition, and the distribution of individual species. The standing stock of both the metazoan fauna and the giant protists (xenophyophores) doubled with a very modest initial increase in nodule cover (from 1% to 3%). Perhaps contrary to expectation, we detected little if any substantive variation in biological diversity along the nodule cover gradient. Faunal composition varied continuously along the nodule cover gradient. We discuss these results in the context of potential seabed-mining operations and the associated sustainable management and conservation plans. We note in particular that successful conservation actions will likely require the preservation of areas comprising the full range of nodule cover and not just the low cover areas that are least attractive to mining.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Poly-metallic nodules, Deep-Sea Mining, Seafloor Imaging, Ecology of Nodule Fauna, RS James Cook cruise 120 (JC120), Autosub6000
Research affiliation: NOC
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB2 Marine Biogeochemistry > FB2-MG Marine Geosystems
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB2 Marine Biogeochemistry > FB2-MG Marine Geosystems > DeepSea Monitoring
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.1002/lno.11157
ISSN: 2378-2242
Projects: Managing Impacts of Deep‐sea Resource Exploitation, CODEMAP
Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2019 07:01
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2019 08:58

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