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Governing Deep-Sea Ecosystems and
Biological Resources
“Which input and knowledge is the scientific community currently generating
for the governance of deep-sea ecosystems?”
Ann Vanreusel
Ghent University and JPI Oceans Mining Impact Pilot Action
European Maritime Day 2016, 18-19 May, Turku (Finland)
Knowledge-Based Governance of Deep-Sea Resources A Science-Policy Workshop
Potential impacts from mining
Material and habitat removal
Plumes (sediments, tailings)
Loss of habitat
Loss of species
Loss of genetic diversity
Loss of ecosystem functions
(Carbon flow, mineralisation)
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (2013) Deep Sea Minerals: Sea Floor Massive Sulphides, a physical, biological, environmental, and
technical review. Vol. 1A, SPC
Conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity
Lotze et al. 2011
1. What is the initial state?
2. What will be or should be the final state?
3. How long does receovery take?
How to minimize disturbance ?
How to facilitate recovery ?
Research questions !!
License areas targeted for polymetallic nodule mining (environmental base line studies)
Areas of Particular Environmental Interest (APEIs) 200 km x 200km (+ 100km buffer)
Environmental Management Plan for the Clarion Clipperton Zone
(ISBA /17/LTC/7 - July 2011)
9 areas of particular environmental interest (APEI), on a provisional basis, to protect the
biodiversity and ecosystem structure and functioning of the zone
APEI = “large areas with self-sustaining populations and a broad range of habitat variability.
Those should not be affected directly by physical activity or indirectly by mining effects such as
plumes, although the degree of impacts raised by potential deep sea mining is still unknown.”
“Contractors will provide in their environmental management plans the designation of the
required impact and preservation reference zones for the primary purposes of ensuring
preservation and facilitating monitoring of biological communities impacted by mining
activities. Impact reference zones should be designated to be within the seabed claim area
actually mined. Preservation reference zones (PRZ) should be designated to include some
occurrence of polymetallic nodules in order to be as ecologically similar as possible to the
impact zone, and to be removed from potential mining impacts;”
Research projects that complement the environmental work of the contractors
What knowledge is required for a sound environmental management plan?
Are APEIs effective and representative?
Criteria for PRZ?
JPI Oceans Expedition SO239 March –April 2015
„SO239 EcoResponse - Assessing the Ecology,
Connectivity and Resilience of Polymetallic Nodule
Field Systems“
40 scientists on board for 52 days to sample 4 license areas and APEI3
Nodules are targeted  Habitat/Substrate for (epi)fauna ?
Videotransects with ROV at 1 m above seafloor across CCZ
 allowed to identify smaller epifauna
dense nodule concentrations (> 15% cover)
very few or no obvious surface nodules (< 1 %)
37 year old track
1. To identify the importance of nodules for local biodiversity
2. To gather preliminary data on one of the APEIs for which
virtually nothing is known.
3. To validate the impact of nodule removal
4. To estimate the recovery at decadal time-scales
Pictures by Geomar
Nodule rich areas vs nodule poor areas
Low densities in APEI
Low densities in nodule poor areas
Vanreusel, Hilario, Ribeiro, Menot and Arbizu martinez (in press in Scienttific reports)
APEI 3 is below the most oligotrophic surface waters of this oceanic region, at the northern
edge of the Northern equatorial surface current, which resulted in low numbers compared to
the more southern areas in the CCZ, where spring blooms occur more prominently and higher
POC fluxes are expected especially in the eastern part of the surveyed area.
POC flux
Study sites for benthic surveys
Background colors refer to POC flux (Lutz et al 2007)
Reduced densities in experimental tracks
Vanreusel, Hilario, Ribeiro, Menot and Arbizu martinez (in press in Scinetific reports)
• Polymetallic nodules sustain diverse benthic
communities on the abyssal plain
• Removal of nodules but also the disturbance of the
sediments creates at least a decadal impact to the
epibenthic biodiversity
• Indications of low epifaunal abundances in APEI 3
despite presence of high nodule concentrations
High densities of surface nodules in the preservation
reference zones (PRZs) is an ultimate requirement for
the preservation of abyssal biodiversity within the CCZ.
The presence of nodules may still enable the recovery of the local fauna in the
long term, when the epifauna of the preservation areas is also impacted by
dispersing sediment plumes.
Further research is required in each of the APEIs to
understand how representative they are of, and
connected with, the central CCZ abyssal ecosystems
Impact of loss of connectivity on marine populations
Which species and how many ?
What is their distribution ? Biogeographical provinces ?
What are population dynamics (reproduction, gene flow)?
Courtesy Craig Smith U Hawaii
Only 3 genetic papers from CCZ published today
1300 km
1900 specimens
700 sequences
243 Polychaete species
60% singletons
23% in both sites
95 Isopod species
70% singletons
7% in both sites
Conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity
Map biodiversity
• Which species are there?
• What is their distribution?
Catalogue species identifications
• Taxonomy incl. Barcoding  reference database
• Access to data for comparison (share data)
Understand pattersn and processes
• Turnover (local versus regional diversity)
• Connectivity (Reproductive biology/life cycle/gene flow)
• Biological and envionmental drivers
Species interactions (key stone species, Invasive species,..)
Habitat provision and other environmental drivers
International collaboration between scientists and contractors
Development and access to new technology
Per station
Per campaign
Over all contractors
Technology development for ‘rapid and reliable’ monitoring
before, during and after mining
Courtesy Wood’s Hole oceanographic Institute
Technology development for ‘rapid and reliable’ monitoring
before, during and after mining
Metagenetic approach
DNA extraction
Compare OCTU’s to
reference database
Next generation sequencing
JPI-Oceans: The Joint Programming
Initiative Healthy and Productive
Seas and Oceans
Pilot Action: “Ecological Aspects of
Deep-Sea Mining”
25 Partners
Thank you for your attention
MIDAS „Managing Impacts
of Deep-seA reSource
32 Partners