The JPI Oceans project ‘MiningImpact’ aimed at assessing the long-term impacts of polymetallic nodule mining on the deep-sea environment. Core of the project were three marine research campaigns conducted in 2015 on the RV Sonne visiting several license areas and two Areas of Particular Environmental Interest (APEIs) in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) as well as the DISCOL benthic impact experiment in the Peru Basin.
Dr. Matthias Haeckel
GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
Jointly analyse the long-term ecological consequences of deep-sea polymetallic nodule mining to provide the knowledge base and inform the development of the international regulation regime of deep sea mining activities by:
- Predicting the ecological, biogeochemical and hydrodynamic consequences of a mining impact.
- Testing a range of modern rapid assessment methods and monitoring techniques for defining the ecosystem status.
- Communicating the results to stakeholders and policymakers.
- Conducting a comparative baseline study across different deep-sea environments (e.g. trophic states and seamounts)
The main research questions addressed by ‘MiningImpact’ were:
- How did the deep-sea ecosystem (species biodiversity, community structure, biogeochemical functioning) in various disturbed areas in the CCZ and DISCOL evolve several decades after the impact?
- Can APEIs and seamounts fulfill their anticipated role as conservation areas for nodule-associated species?
- How large is the expected spatial and temporal footprint of deep-sea mining operations?
- What is the long-range connectivity of species in the CCZ and how is it affected by mining?
The scientific findings of the project were:
- Nodule ecosystems support a highly diverse fauna of sessile and mobile species.
- Faunal communities & environmental parameters show a high variability even on a very local spatial scale.
- Benthic fauna communities differ significantly between seamounts and nodule habitats.
- Loss of seafloor integrity by nodule and sediment removal generally reduces population densities and ecosystem functions. Biogeochemical remineralization processes and the productivity of the benthic community are both impacted by nodule removal.
- Disturbance impacts on nodule ecosystems last for many decades, affect numerous ecosystem compartments and functions