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Introduction


The deep-sea's potential economic importance is growing because of increasing constraints on terrestrial resources. The disposal of anthropogenic waste is a major consideration in land use as large areas are required to treat raw sewage. In marine habitats, public concern about bathing beaches, fisheries and other coastal resources has precipitated an interest in sewage disposal in deeper waters. In 1987, the American Government implemented the world's first deep-sea municipal sewage-sludge disposal site.

This site is located 106 Nautical Miles off New York.

We are evaluating the effects of surficial dumping of sewage sludge on the deep-sea floor some 2.5 kilometres below the surface, using the benthic free-living nematode fauna as environmental monitoring organisms. Sediment samples were taken by DSV Alvin during the period of dumping (1992) and four years after dumping had ceased (1996).

Recent research has suggested that the deep sea contains a high biodiversity of species. It is unclear what mechanisms maintain this diversity or how susceptible it is to human impacts. Data from this study will help address these questions and will contribute to the conservation of global species diversity.