Research Topic

Anthropogenic Disturbances in the Deep Sea

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The deep sea is the largest biome on earth, covering approximately 60% of the Earth’s solid surface and representing 90% of the oceans by volume. Due to its limited accessibility, it is the least understood, yet one of the richest ecosystems on the planet. It provides a wealth of resources and is crucial to ...

The deep sea is the largest biome on earth, covering approximately 60% of the Earth’s solid surface and representing 90% of the oceans by volume. Due to its limited accessibility, it is the least understood, yet one of the richest ecosystems on the planet. It provides a wealth of resources and is crucial to our lives through the services it provides. Although the oceans have been utilized by humans for millennia, it is only recently, through technological developments, that humans have begun to intensively exploit the deep ocean. Invisibly hidden under the waters, the deep sea has been considered to be the least affected habitat on Earth by human use. However, recently, the perception of the damage and its extent are coming to light. Current activities directly affecting the deep sea include fishing, waste disposal, oil, gas and bio-prospecting. In addition, new activities such as mineral extraction and CO2 sequestration and/or deposition, are likely to emerge in the near future. There is mounting evidence suggesting that the deep sea is highly vulnerable to anthropogenic disturbance and that the conservation of deep-sea habitats should be a priority. This is reflected in the growing number of species and habitats requiring conservation actions and the need for new management instruments for the deep ocean. In particular one has to take into consideration that the majority of these habitats and associated species are located on the high seas where the capacity for intervention and the legal basis either do not exist or may fall far short of what is needed. We still lack comprehensive assessments on the effects of most human activities impacting the deep sea. For example, we know little on the impact of climate change on deep-sea habitats, but we know that in the recent discussion concerning the markers to be considered to identify the passage from the Holocene to the Anthropocene the geologists meeting at the “International Geological Conference” in Cape Town (August 2016) have considered micro-plastics in the deep sea as a potential issue.

We find that there is the need and opportunity to visit and revise scientifically the anthropogenic impacts in the deep sea.

Articles presented in the Research Topic "Anthropogenic Disturbances in the Deep Sea" will explore the latest interdisciplinary research and discuss the main questions around this topic. This will enable a scientific support for a better management of anthropogenic activities affecting the deep sea and help implement efficient public policies.


Keywords: Deep-sea, anthropogenic impacts, climate change, biodiversity, deep-sea floor integrity, governance, Anthropocene


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