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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 12 Dec 2018

Research article | 12 Dec 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).

Geographic distribution of free-living marine nematodes in the Clarion–Clipperton Zone: implications for future deep-sea mining scenarios

Freija Hauquier1, Lara Macheriotou1, Tania N. Bezerra1, Great Egho2, Pedro Martínez Arbizu2, and Ann Vanreusel1 Freija Hauquier et al.
  • 1Marine Biology Research Group, Ghent University (UGent), B-9000, Gent, Belgium
  • 2German Center for Marine Biodiversity Research (DZMB), Senckenberg am Meer, D-26382, Wilhelmshaven, Germany

Abstract. Mining of polymetallic nodules in abyssal seafloor sediments promises to address the growing worldwide demand for metallic minerals. Given that prospective mining operations are likely to have profound impacts on deep seafloor communities, industrial investment has been accompanied by scientific involvement for the assessment of baseline conditions and provision of guidelines for environmentally sustainable mining practices.

Benthic meiofaunal communities were studied in four prospective mining areas of the Clarion–Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the east Pacific Ocean, arranged in a southeast-northwest fashion coinciding with the productivity gradient in the area. Additionally, samples were collected from an Area of Particular Environmental Interest (APEI-3) in the northwest of the CCZ where mining will be prohibited and which should serve as a source area for the biota within the larger CCZ. Total densities in the 0–5 upper cm layer of the sediment were influenced by sedimentary characteristics, water depth and nodule density at the various sampling locations, indicating the importance of nodules for meiofaunal standing stock.

Nematodes were the most abundant meiobenthic taxon and displayed a relatively similar community composition for the different areas. Assemblages were typically dominated by a few genera (generally 2–6), accounting for 40–70 % of all individuals, as well as a large number of rare genera each contributing less than 5 % to the overall abundances. Dominant genera were widely spread within the CCZ and shared among all sampled license areas, whereas rare genera were usually limited to one. The same trend was present when looking at the species level of one of the dominant genera, Halalaimus, implying that it might be mainly these rare genera and species that will be affected by changes in their habitat due to mining activities.

Freija Hauquier et al.
Interactive discussion
Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
Freija Hauquier et al.
Data sets

Meiofauna abundances from multicorer samples during SONNE cruise SO239 F. Hauquier, E. Pape, E., and A. Vanreusel

Sedimentary parameters from multicorer and ROV pushcore samples during SONNE cruise SO239 F. Hauquier, L. Macheriotou, A. Vanreusel, F. Janssen, and A. Boetius

Freija Hauquier et al.
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Short summary
Future mining operations in the deep sea provide a source of scientific uncertainty and call for detailed study of the ecosystem. We investigated one of the most diverse and abundant taxa present in deep-sea sediments, nematodes, and demonstrate the importance of sediment attributes for their communities. Especially species that are less common and have a limited spatial distribution will be vulnerable to mining-induced changes. Our findings can serve as a reference for future impact studies.
Future mining operations in the deep sea provide a source of scientific uncertainty and call for...