Environment, ecology, and potential effectiveness of an area protected from deep-sea mining (Clarion Clipperton Zone, abyssal Pacific)

Jones, Daniel ORCID:; Simon-Lledó, Erik ORCID:; Amon, Diva J.; Bett, Brian J. ORCID:; Caulle, Clémence; Clement, Louis ORCID:; Connelly, Douglas P.; Dahlgren, Thomas G.; Durden, Jennifer; Drazen, Jeffrey C.; Felden, Janine; Gates, Andrew ORCID:; Georgieva, Magdalena N.; Glover, Adrian G.; Gooday, Andrew ORCID:; Hollingsworth, Anita L.; Horton, Tammy ORCID:; James, Rachael H.; Jeffreys, Rachel M.; Laguionie-Marchais, Claire; Leitner, Astrid B.; Lichtschlag, Anna ORCID:; Menendez, Amaya; Paterson, Gordon L.J.; Peel, Kate; Robert, Katleen; Schoening, Timm; Shulga, Natalia A.; Smith, Craig R.; Taboada, Sergio; Thurnherr, Andreas M.; Wiklund, Helena; Young III, C. Robert; Huvenne, Veerle ORCID: 2021 Environment, ecology, and potential effectiveness of an area protected from deep-sea mining (Clarion Clipperton Zone, abyssal Pacific). Progress in Oceanography, 197. 102653.

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To protect the range of habitats, species, and ecosystem functions in the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ), a region of interest for deep-sea polymetallic nodule mining in the Pacific, nine Areas of Particular Environmental Interest (APEIs) have been designated by the International Seabed Authority (ISA). The APEIs are remote, rarely visited and poorly understood. Here we present and synthesise all available observations made at APEI-6, the most north eastern APEI in the network, and assess its representativity of mining contract areas in the eastern CCZ. The two studied regions of APEI-6 have a variable morphology, typical of the CCZ, with hills, plains and occasional seamounts. The seafloor is predominantly covered by fine-grained sediments, and includes small but abundant polymetallic nodules, as well as exposed bedrock. The oceanographic parameters investigated appear broadly similar across the region although some differences in deep-water mass separation were evident between APEI-6 and some contract areas. Sediment biogeochemistry is broadly similar across the area in the parameters investigated, except for oxygen penetration depth, which reached >2 m at the study sites within APEI-6, deeper than that found at UK1 and GSR contract areas. The ecology of study sites in APEI-6 differs from that reported from UK1 and TOML-D contract areas, with differences in community composition of microbes, macrofauna, xenophyophores and metazoan megafauna. Some species were shared between areas although connectivity appears limited. We show that, from the available information, APEI-6 is partially representative of the exploration areas to the south yet is distinctly different in several key characteristics. As a result, additional APEIs may be warranted and caution may need to be taken in relying on the APEI network alone for conservation, with other management activities required to help mitigate the impacts of mining in the CCZ.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: NOC Programmes > Marine Physics and Ocean Climate
NOC Programmes > Ocean BioGeosciences
ISSN: 00796611
Date made live: 09 Sep 2021 14:15 +0 (UTC)

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