About this Research Topic
Ocean ridges host a range of habitats including hydrothermal vents, rocky slopes, and soft sediments, all with connections to the pelagic ecosystem above. Mid-ocean ridges stretch for tens of thousands of miles through the oceans, but other plate-boundary ridges can be quite short e.g., in back arc basins. They are an area of increasing economic interest related to deep-sea mining and deep-water fisheries as well as being crossed by telecommunication cables. This economic drive has stimulated increasing scientific interest, through the need to exploit resources whilst identifying areas in need of ecological conservation. Many scientific knowledge gaps have been identified. These gaps need to be filled before effective management plans can be developed, such as those that are being considered by the International Seabed Authority (ISA) for the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the SW Indian Ridge and the Central Indian Ocean Ridge. This volume will bring together ongoing research that may have an impact on the development of resources on ocean ridges.
To date most research on ocean ridges has focussed on active hydrothermal vents and their unique fauna, but we know that inactive/extinct vents, rocky outcrops and sedimented areas each host different faunas providing a patchwork of habitats along ridges, sometimes in a relatively small area. All of these interact with the overlying pelagic realm. Mining activities may be directed at inactive and extinct hydrothermal vents but the impacts, plus those from deep-water fisheries, could affect other habitats nearby. There are very few high-resolution maps of habitat distribution and the fine-scale distribution of different taxa along ridges, though a substantial amount of data has been collected by ISA contractors exploring for minerals along mid-ocean ridges. It is an important step to bring together the work of contractors and research teams particularly for the works that assess connectivity between and among ridges using genetic techniques. All habitats could be affected by mining plumes with their high particle load and potential toxicity. The tolerance levels of many species are unknown, including from natural hydrothermal vent plumes. The increasing use of high-resolution mapping, Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and other technologies in difficult ridge environments is transforming our view of life in these habitats and should inform management decisions.
We welcome manuscripts of a range of topics that can improve our general understanding of the diverse ocean ridge habitats and marine life including habitat mapping along ridges, and spatial and temporal distribution of species with water depth, latitude and other factors, ecosystem function, population connectivity, ecosystem modeling, ecotoxicology, ecosystem services. Manuscripts on resource potential of ocean ridges, potential mining practices, potential cumulative impacts of human activities in mid-ocean ridge environment, understanding/modeling plume dispersion in response to physical conditions, resilience of species and taxonomic groups to plume parameters will also be considered.
David Billett is also Director of his own one-man consultancy Deep Seas Environmental Solutions Ltd. but this company will cease trading in 2021. Dr. Billett and his wife are the sole shareholders. No patents. No grants from private companies. Dr. Billett is an Emeritus Research Fellow at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.
Philip Weaver is Managing Director of Seascape Consultants Ltd a company he founded in 2010.
Keywords: Deep-sea, Environmental management, Ocean ridge
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