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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-304
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-304
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 12 Aug 2019

Submitted as: research article | 12 Aug 2019

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

Are seamounts refuge areas for fauna from polymetallic nodule fields?

Daphne Cuvelier1, Pedro A. Ribeiro1,a, Sofia P. Ramalho1,b, Daniel Kersken2,3, Pedro Martinez Arbizu3, and Ana Colaço1 Daphne Cuvelier et al.
  • 1MARE – Marine and environmental sciences centre/IMAR – Instituto do Mar/Centro OKEANOS – Universidade dos Açores, Rua Prof. Dr. Frederico Machado 4, 9901-862 Horta, Portugal
  • 2Department of Marine Zoology, Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum, Senckenberganlage 25, 60325 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • 3German Centre for Marine Biodiversity Research (DZMB), Senckenberg am Meer, Südstrand 44, 26382 Wilhelmshaven, Germany
  • acurrent address: Department of Biological Sciences and K.G. Jebsen Centre for Deep-Sea Research, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
  • bcurrent address: Departmento de Biologia & CESAM, Universidade de Aveiro, Campus Universitário de Santiago, 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal

Abstract. Seamounts are abundant and prominent features on the deep-sea floor and intersperse with the nodule fields of the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone (CCZ). There is a particular interest in characterising the fauna inhabiting seamounts in the CCZ because they are the only other ecosystem in the region to provide hard substrata besides the abundant nodules on the soft sediment abyssal plains. It has been hypothesised that seamounts could provide refuge for organisms during deep-sea mining actions or that they could play a role in the (re-)colonisation of the disturbed nodule fields. This hypothesis is tested by analysing video transects in both ecosystems, assessing megafauna composition and abundance.

Nine video transects (ROV dives) from two different license areas and one Area of Particular Environmental Interest in the eastern CCZ were analysed. Four of these transects were carried out as exploratory dives on four different seamounts in order to gain first insights in megafauna composition. The five other dives were carried out in the neighbouring nodule fields in the same areas. Variation in community composition observed among and along the video transects was high, with little morphospecies overlap on intra-ecosystem transects. Despite these observations of considerable faunal variations within each ecosystem, differences between seamounts and nodule fields prevailed, showing significantly different species associations characterising them, thus questioning their use as a possible refuge area.

Daphne Cuvelier et al.
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Short summary
Polymetallic nodule mining will remove hard substrata from the abyssal deep-sea floor. The only neighbouring ecosystem featuring hard substratum are seamounts and its inhabiting fauna could aid in the recovery post-mining. Nevertheless, first observations of seamount megafauna were very different form nodule associated megafauna and showed little overlap. The possible uniqueness of these ecosystems implies that they should be included in management plans for the conservation of biodiversity.
Polymetallic nodule mining will remove hard substrata from the abyssal deep-sea floor. The only...
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