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

chemical pollutants. The authors also highlight other activities that may put at risk deep-sea communities in the near future: mineral extraction at hydrothermal vents and possibly on abyssal plains. These extractive activities will target important deposits of copper, nickel and cobalt in the manganese nodules of the Pacific abyssal plain, deposits of manganese, iron, cobalt, cupper and platinum in the ferromanganese crust of seamounts, and large amounts of exploitable metals (gold, zinc, copper, lead, cadmium and silver) in the massive sulphide deposits of hydrothermal vents. It is in these hydrothermal vents where the impact of mineral exploitation is likely to happen first. This exploitation appears to be commercially viable and detailed pilot projects and environmental impact assessments have been conducted in areas of Papua New Guinea, where extraction should start in the near future. Although researchers, industry and policy makers have worked together since the start to evaluate potential impacts and minimize extraction effects, the real impact of such industrial activity is unknown as our knowledge of the biodiversity and functioning of hydrothermal vents, both active and extinct, is still limited. The results of this review and synthesis are especially timely, given increasing interests in mining the deep-sea floor, including mining of rare earth elements, a crucial resource for novel electronic equipment and green-energy technologies.

The main problem is that we still know very little of what we call the deep sea, making it difficult to evaluate accurately the real impact of industrial activities, litter accumulation and climate change in the deep sea habitats. The deep sea is considered to expand from the end of the continental shelf at approximately 200-250 m depth to the great abyssal depths between 3000 and 6000 m, which may reach down to 11 km in areas such as the Mariana Trench. The deep seafloor covers 73% of the oceans with an estimated
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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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