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Man and the last great wilderness: Human impact on the deep sea
Date:8/1/2011

The oceans cover 71% of our planet, with over half with a depth greater than 3000 m. Although our knowledge is still very limited, we know that the deep ocean contains a diversity of habitats and ecosystems, supports high biodiversity, and harbors important biological and mineral resources. Human activities are, however increasingly affecting deep-sea habitats, resulting in the potential for biodiversity loss and, with this, the loss of many goods and services provided by deep-sea ecosystems.

These conclusions come from an international study conducted during the Census of Marine Life project SYNDEEP (Towards a First Global Synthesis of Biodiversity, Biogeography, and Ecosystem Function in the Deep Sea). The authors, over 20 deep-sea experts, conducted a semi-quantitative analysis of the most important anthropogenic impacts that affect deep-sea habitats at the global scale in the past, present and future scenarios. The impacts were grouped in three major categories: waste and litter dumping, resource exploitation, and climate change. The authors identified which deep-sea habitats are at highest risk in the short and mid-term, as well as what will be the main anthropogenic impacts affecting these areas, in a paper published in PLoS ONE on 1st August 2011.

During the Census of Marine Life program, a ten-year program that investigated diversity, distribution, and abundance of life in the global ocean and which ended inn 2010, researchers from its five deep-sea projects sampled and studied the different deep-sea habitats around the globe. The analysis of the current article is based on the results of the Census of Marine Life projects, synthesized during SYNDEEP, and also from data published previously in the scientific literature.

In the past, the main human impact affecting deep-sea ecosystems was the dumping or disposal of litter into the oceans. These activities were banned in 1972, but their consequences are still present to
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Contact: Eva Ramirez-Llodra
ezr@icm.csic.es
34-678-537-446
Census of Marine Life
Source:Eurekalert  

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