Abyssal Baseline Project
Our need for metals is increasing worldwide. To meet this demand, the international mining industry is beginning to explore our ocean depths for new resources. In the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), unique conditions have led to the formation of a dense abundance of polymetallic nodules forming on the abyssal seafloor. These nodules have led to an interest in mining this area with 15 exploration areas allocated, each up to 75,000 square km, by the International Seabed Authority. The CCZ is poorly explored and much of what lives there, very little is know about.
The Smith Lab is part of an international program that is using the best available technology to undertake benthic biological baseline studies in accordance with ISA environmental guidelines (see ISBA/16/LTC/7 and recommendations from ISA
2002), using state‐of‐the‐art approaches in deep‐sea ecological, taxonomic, and connectivity studies in the UK-1 Claim Area. We are working in collaboration with scientists from Hawai’i Pacific University, the Natural History Museum in London UK, the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton UK, Uni Research in Norway, the International Research Institute of Stavanger in Norway and Senckenberg am Meer in Germany.
Our studies are addressing the following key questions:
1) What are the baseline conditions of community structure and biodiversity for the key benthic biotic components of this ecosystem (megafauna, macrofauna, meiofauna and microbes)?
2) How do community structure, sediment community respiration, and biodiversity vary as a function of environmental parameters (especially nodule cover) within and across three study areas (or “strata”) within the UK-1 Claim Area, and between years within one of these study areas?
3) What is the connectivity at species and population levels between strata and across the CCZ for representative components of the biota?
These baseline environmental studies are planned to occur over five years, with the program having started in 2013. So far two cruises have been undertaken; the first cruise (AB01) evaluated benthic ecological parameters within the first 30×30 km stratum during September – October 2013. The second cruise evaluated benthic biological studies in the second 30×30 km stratum to evaluate baseline conditions over broader scales,
allowing generalizations across the claim area.
International Seabed Authority: https://www.isa.org.jm/
More pictures from the first ABYSSLINE cruise (AB01) can be seen on Twitter using #ABYSSLINE
More pictures from the second ABYSSLINE cruise (AB02) can be seen on Twitter using #AB02
The blog run by the Natural History Museum, London and Uni Research team during AB01 and AB02: http://3682m.tumblr.com/
The blog run by the University of Hawaii team during AB02: http://abyssline.blogspot.com/