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A call for deep-ocean stewardship.

Science (New York, N.Y.)

Seawater, Air Pollutants, Atmosphere, Biodiversity, Carbon Dioxide, Conservation of Natural Resources, methods, Minerals, Mining, Oceans and Seas

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      Most cited references 13

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      Man and the Last Great Wilderness: Human Impact on the Deep Sea

      The deep sea, the largest ecosystem on Earth and one of the least studied, harbours high biodiversity and provides a wealth of resources. Although humans have used the oceans for millennia, technological developments now allow exploitation of fisheries resources, hydrocarbons and minerals below 2000 m depth. The remoteness of the deep seafloor has promoted the disposal of residues and litter. Ocean acidification and climate change now bring a new dimension of global effects. Thus the challenges facing the deep sea are large and accelerating, providing a new imperative for the science community, industry and national and international organizations to work together to develop successful exploitation management and conservation of the deep-sea ecosystem. This paper provides scientific expert judgement and a semi-quantitative analysis of past, present and future impacts of human-related activities on global deep-sea habitats within three categories: disposal, exploitation and climate change. The analysis is the result of a Census of Marine Life – SYNDEEP workshop (September 2008). A detailed review of known impacts and their effects is provided. The analysis shows how, in recent decades, the most significant anthropogenic activities that affect the deep sea have evolved from mainly disposal (past) to exploitation (present). We predict that from now and into the future, increases in atmospheric CO2 and facets and consequences of climate change will have the most impact on deep-sea habitats and their fauna. Synergies between different anthropogenic pressures and associated effects are discussed, indicating that most synergies are related to increased atmospheric CO2 and climate change effects. We identify deep-sea ecosystems we believe are at higher risk from human impacts in the near future: benthic communities on sedimentary upper slopes, cold-water corals, canyon benthic communities and seamount pelagic and benthic communities. We finalise this review with a short discussion on protection and management methods.
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        Ploughing the deep sea floor.

        Bottom trawling is a non-selective commercial fishing technique whereby heavy nets and gear are pulled along the sea floor. The direct impact of this technique on fish populations and benthic communities has received much attention, but trawling can also modify the physical properties of seafloor sediments, water–sediment chemical exchanges and sediment fluxes. Most of the studies addressing the physical disturbances of trawl gear on the seabed have been undertaken in coastal and shelf environments, however, where the capacity of trawling to modify the seafloor morphology coexists with high-energy natural processes driving sediment erosion, transport and deposition. Here we show that on upper continental slopes, the reworking of the deep sea floor by trawling gradually modifies the shape of the submarine landscape over large spatial scales. We found that trawling-induced sediment displacement and removal from fishing grounds causes the morphology of the deep sea floor to become smoother over time, reducing its original complexity as shown by high-resolution seafloor relief maps. Our results suggest that in recent decades, following the industrialization of fishing fleets, bottom trawling has become an important driver of deep seascape evolution. Given the global dimension of this type of fishery, we anticipate that the morphology of the upper continental slope in many parts of the world’s oceans could be altered by intensive bottom trawling, producing comparable effects on the deep sea floor to those generated by agricultural ploughing on land.
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          Deep, diverse and definitely different: unique attributes of the world's largest ecosystem

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            Author and article information

            Journal
            10.1126/science.1251458
            24833377

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