We are studying biodiversity in the UK's polymetallic nodule mining claims in the deep abyssal Pacific.
In 2013, a UK company announced its intention to explore an area of the seafloor abyss in the Pacific Ocean for potential seabed mining.
As part of the international project ABYSSLINE, we are documenting the biodiversity of the region to assess what impact the mining may have.
We are joining multiple deep-sea cruises to the area, with the aim of describing its species and studying their natural history using DNA and morphological methods.
The exploration area, in a region called the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, lies 1,500 kilometres off the coast of Mexico. The abyssal seafloor here is rich in polymetallic nodules – rock concretions containing metals such as manganese, nickel, copper and cobalt. The nodules also contain rare earth elements (REEs) and other metals important to the high-tech and green-technology industries.
Unique ecosystems exist around these deposits, but little is known about their composition or biogeography. The majority of the species from the region are undescribed and lack scientific names.
We know that annelid worms account for around 60 per cent of the macro-fauna, and other species include molluscs, echinoderms, crustaceans, bryozoans, sponges and cnidarians.
Since the project began in 2013, we have spent 70 days at sea on two cruises to the area. Both were operated by the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), aboard the RV Thomas G Thompson and RV Melville.
Documenting the biodiversity of the region and establishing an accurate taxonomy will help us establish the risk that potential mining activities may present to these ecosystems.
- ABYSSLINE consortium: Natural History Museum, National Oceanography Centre, University of Hawaii, Hawaii Pacific University, Senckenberg Institute, Uni Research and IRIS
- Prof Craig Smith
University of Hawaii
- University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS)
- Dr Thomas Dahlgren
Uni Research and University of Gothenburg
Glover AG, Wiklund H, Rabone M, Amon DJ, Smith CR, O'Hara T, Mah CL, Dahlgren TG (2016) Abyssal fauna of the UK-1 polymetallic nodule exploration claim, Clarion-Clipperton Zone, central Pacific Ocean: Echinodermata Biodiversity Data Journal, 4: e7251.
Glover AG, Dahlgren TG, Wiklund H, Mohrbeck I, Smith CR (2016) An End-to-End DNA Taxonomy Methodology for Benthic Biodiversity Survey in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, Central Pacific Abyss Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, 4(1): 2-34.
Deep-sea systematics and ecology research group
- Group overview
- Antarctic marine biodiversity and climate change
- Deep Sea ID - an app from the World Register of Deep-Sea Species
- Establishing biodiversity baselines in a UK deep-sea mining claim
- REX - the remotely operated vehicle for education and exploration
- Systematics and ecology of deep-sea chemosynthetic ecosystems