Importance of nodules for epifauna reported in Nature
A new paper published in Nature's Science Reports reveals the importance of polymetallic nodules for deep-sea biodiversity and ecosystems in the Clarion Clipperton Zone. The results, based on video data collected during the JPI Oceans cruise aboard RV Sonne in spring 2015, demonstrate that that epifaunal densities are more than two times higher in areas of dense nodule coverage (>25 versus ≤10 individuals per 100 m2), and that taxa such corals are virtually absent from nodule-free areas. Surveys conducted along tracks from trawling or experimental mining simulations up to 37 years old suggest that epifauna is almost completely absent and recovery of the ecosystem in this area is slow.
Data and results arising from the JPIO cruises contribute to MIDAS research, and have provided critical insights into the potential impacts of deep-sea mining activities. By highlighting the importance of nodules for the epifaunal biodiversity of this abyssal area, the authors of this paper urge cautious consideration of the criteria for determining future preservation zones in the CCZ and other areas.
The paper was published online on 1 June 2016 and is freely available for download:
Vanreusel, A., Hiliario, A., Ribeiro, P.A., Menot, L. & Arbizu Martinez, P. (2016) Threatened by mining, polymetallic nodules are required to preserve abyssal epifauna. Scientific Reports 6, doi:10.1038/srep26808. Open access online.