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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-51
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-51
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 20 Feb 2019

Research article | 20 Feb 2019

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

Observations of deep-sea fishes and mobile scavengers from the abyssal DISCOL experimental mining area

Jeffrey C. Drazen1, Astrid Leitner1, Sage Morningstar1, Yann Marcon2,3, Jens Greinert4, and Autun Purser2 Jeffrey C. Drazen et al.
  • 1Department of Oceanography, University of Hawaii, 1000 Pope Rd, Honolulu, HI 96821, USA
  • 2Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Am Handelshafen 12, D-27570 Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 3MARUM Center for Marine Environmental Sciences and Department of Geosciences, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
  • 4GEOMAR, Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, Kiel Germany

Abstract. Industrial interest in deep-sea mineral extraction began decades ago and today it is at an all-time high, accelerated by global demand for metals. Several seafloor ecosystem disturbance experiments were performed beginning in the 1970’s, including the DISturbance and reCOLonization experiment (DISCOL) conducted in the Peru Basin in 1989. A large seafloor disturbance was created by repeatedly plowing the seafloor over an area of ~ 10.8 km2. Though a number of studies in abyssal mining regions have evaluated megafaunal biodiversity and ecosystem responses, few have included quantitative and detailed data on fishes or scavengers despite their ecological importance as top predators. We used towed camera transects and baited camera data to evaluate the fish community at the DISCOL site. The abyssal fish community was relatively diverse with 16 taxa dominated by Ipnops meadi. Fish density was lower in ploughed habitat during the several years following disturbance but thereafter increased over time in part due to changes in regional environmental conditions. 26 years post disturbance there were no differences in overall total fish densities between reference and experimental areas, but the dominant fish, I. meadi, still exhibited much lower densities in ploughed habitat suggesting only partial fish community recovery. The scavenging community was dominated by eelpouts (Pachycara spp), hermit crabs (Probeebei mirabilis) and shrimp. The large contribution of hermit crabs appears unique amongst abyssal scavenger studies worldwide. The abyssal fish community at DISCOL was similar to that in the more northerly Clarion Clipperton Zone, though some species have only been observed at DISCOL thus far. Also, further species level identifications are required to refine this assessment. Additional studies across the polymetallic nodule provinces of the Pacific are required to further evaluate the environmental drivers of fish density and diversity and species biogeographies, which will be important for the development of appropriate management plans aimed at minimizing human impact from deep-sea mining.

Jeffrey C. Drazen et al.
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