Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Human impacts on the deep seafloor

Date:
September 14, 2010
Source:
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK)
Summary:
Scientists have for the first time estimated the physical footprint of human activities on the deep seafloor of the North East Atlantic. The findings reveal that the area disturbed by bottom trawling commercial fishing fleets exceeds the combined physical footprint of other major human activities considered.

Cold water coral reefs in Norway.
Credit: Images courtesy Institute of Marine Research, Norway

Scientists have for the first time estimated the physical footprint of human activities on the deep seafloor of the North East Atlantic. The findings, published in the journal PLoS ONE, reveal that the area disturbed by bottom trawling commercial fishing fleets exceeds the combined physical footprint of other major human activities considered.

The deep seafloor covers approximately 60% of Earth's surface, but only a tiny fraction of it has been studied to date. Yet as technology advances and resources from relatively shallow marine environments are depleted, human impacts on the deep seafloor are likely to increase.

"Information on the location and spatial extent of human activities affecting the deep-sea environment is crucial for conservation of seafloor ecosystems and for governance and sustainable management of the world's oceans," said Angela Benn of the National Oceanography Centre, who led the new study.

The researchers focused on the OSPAR maritime area of the North East Atlantic, where human activities are particularly intense. The area covers over eleven million square kilometres, about 75 percent of which is deeper than 200 metres, and includes important fishing grounds such as those of Hatton and Rockall.

Using available data for the year 2005, they mapped and estimated the spatial extent of intentional human activities occurring directly on the seafloor as well as structures and artefacts present on the seafloor resulting from past activities.

They looked exclusively at the physical footprint rather than the consequential ecological effects of disturbance, contamination and pollution, which are harder to ascertain. One difficulty that they faced was that of accessing data on human activities that was accurate, up to date and comprehensive, and in a suitable format for analysis.

"Some governments, public organisations and private companies were far more forthcoming with information than others," explained Benn. "Significant improvements are needed in data collection and availability, and this requirement needs to be built into international conventions and treaties with a legal framework in place to ensure informed environmental management."

Despite difficulties and various uncertainties, the researchers' assessment suggests that, although now banned, previously dumped radioactive waste, munitions and chemical weapons together have the lowest physical footprint of the human activities considered, although they do not consider potential dispersal after leakage.

Non-fisheries marine scientific research also has a relatively small footprint, whereas those of fisheries marine scientific research, telecommunication cables and the oil and gas industry are moderate. However, even on the lowest estimates, the spatial extent of bottom trawling is at least ten times that for the other activities assessed, with a physical footprint greater than that of all the others combined.

The study estimated the total area of physical imprint in 2005 to be around 28,000 km2. However many human activities in the deep sea are concentrated in certain areas, particularly in shallower depths between 200 m and 1500 m, and in particular habitats which become disproportionally impacted. The OSPAR area comprises many different habitats each with different and diverse ecosystems. The percentage impact in each of these habitats would provide important information but unfortunately there is virtually no detailed seabed mapping to provide this information.

As demands drive human activities ever deeper the imprint will become more widespread. "Consequently," argues Benn, "there needs to be a much greater understanding of the relative impacts of human activities on the deep seafloor, and in particular how these activities affect seafloor ecosystems and biodiversity."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Angela R. Benn, Philip P. Weaver, David S. M. Billet, Sybille van den Hove, Andrew P. Murdock, Gemma B. Doneghan, Tim Le Bas, Peter Roopnarine. Human Activities on the Deep Seafloor in the North East Atlantic: An Assessment of Spatial Extent. PLoS ONE, 2010; 5 (9): e12730 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012730

Cite This Page:

National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). "Human impacts on the deep seafloor." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100914115244.htm>.
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). (2010, September 14). Human impacts on the deep seafloor. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100914115244.htm
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). "Human impacts on the deep seafloor." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100914115244.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

AP (Aug. 27, 2014) Thundering surf spawned by Hurricane Marie pounded the Southern California coast Wednesday, causing minor flooding in a low-lying beach town. High surf warnings were posted for Los Angeles County south through Orange County. (Aug. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Calif. Quake Underscores Need for Early Warning

Calif. Quake Underscores Need for Early Warning

AP (Aug. 26, 2014) Researchers at UC Berkeley are testing a prototype of an earthquake early warning system that California is pursuing years after places like Mexico and Japan already have them up and running. (August 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) Huge waves generated by Hurricane Marie hit the Southern California coast. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Brazil Tries Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Fight Dengue

Brazil Tries Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Fight Dengue

AFP (Aug. 25, 2014) A factory in the industrial state of Sao Paulo produces genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue, a deadly tropical disease more prevalent in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins