Threatened by mining, polymetallic nodules are required to preserve abyssal epifauna

Type Article
Date 2016-06
Language English
Author(s) Vanreusel Ann1, Hilario Ana2, 3, Ribeiro Pedro A.4, 5, Menot LenaickORCID6, Arbizu Pedro Martinez7
Affiliation(s) 1 : Univ Ghent, Marine Biol, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium.
2 : Univ Aveiro, Biol Dept, P-3810 Aveiro, Portugal.
3 : Univ Aveiro, Ctr Environm & Marine Studies, P-3810 Aveiro, Portugal.
4 : Univ Azores, Dept Oceanog & Fisheries, MARE Marine & Environm Sci Ctr, P-9901862 Horta, Portugal.
5 : Univ Azores, Okeanos R&D Ctr, P-9901862 Horta, Portugal.
6 : IFREMER, Deep Sea Environm Lab, Ctr Bretagne, F-29280 Plouzane, France.
7 : Senckenberg Meer, Abt DZMB, D-26382 Wilhelmshaven, Germany.
Source Scientific Reports (2045-2322) (Nature Publishing Group), 2016-06 , Vol. 6 , P. -
DOI 10.1038/srep26808
WOS© Times Cited 61
Abstract Polymetallic nodule mining at abyssal depths in the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone (Eastern Central Pacific) will impact one of the most remote and least known environments on Earth. Since vast areas are being targeted by concession holders for future mining, large-scale effects of these activities are expected. Hence, insight into the fauna associated with nodules is crucial to support effective environmental management. In this study video surveys were used to compare the epifauna from sites with contrasting nodule coverage in four license areas. Results showed that epifaunal densities are more than two times higher at dense nodule coverage (>25 versus ≤10 individuals per 100 m2), and that taxa such as alcyonacean and antipatharian corals are virtually absent from nodule-free areas. Furthermore, surveys conducted along tracks from trawling or experimental mining simulations up to 37 years old, suggest that the removal of epifauna is almost complete and that its full recovery is slow. By highlighting the importance of nodules for the epifaunal biodiversity of this abyssal area, we urge for cautious consideration of the criteria for determining future preservation zones.
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