Source University of Exeter
Mining on the ocean floor could do irreversible damage to deep-sea ecosystems, says a new study of seabed mining proposals around the world.
The deep sea (depths below 200m) covers about half of the Earth's surface and is home to a vast range of species.
Little is known about these environments, and researchers from the University of Exeter and Greenpeace say mining could have "long-lasting and unforeseen consequences"- not just at mining sites but also across much larger areas.
The study is the first to give a global overview of all current plans to mine the seabed, in both national and international waters, and looks at the potential impacts including physical destruction of seabed habitats, creation of large underwater plumes of sediment and the effects of chemical, noise and light pollution arising from mining operations.
"Our knowledge of these ecosystems is still limited, but we know they're very sensitive," said Dr David Santillo, a marine biologist and senior Greenpeace scientist based at the University of Exeter. "Recovery from man-made disturbance could take decades, centuries or even millennia, if these ecosystems recover at all."
"As we learn more about deep sea ecosystems and the role of oceans in mitigating climate change, it seems wise to take precautions to avoid damage that could have long-lasting and unforeseen consequences."