Commission on Ecosystem Management

Deep Sea Ecosystems and Mining

Deep sea biodiversity Photo: Deep Atlantic Stepping Stones Science Team_IFE_URI_NOAA

The overall goal of the CEM Thematic Groups is to provide a basis for managing the effects of human use to ensure continued flow of ecosystem products and services. In the specific context of deep-sea mining (but taking a generic deep-seabed resource approach) there are 3 key objectives of the Deep-sea ecosystems and mining thematic group:

1) To determine and describe the main impacts of deep-sea mining on ecosystem structure and function
2) To identify and provide advice on the main aspects of scientific research needed to improve our understanding of the effects of deep-sea mining
3) To investigate and provide advice on management options and measures to mitigate the main impacts of deep-sea mining on ecosystem structure and function

The approach of the TG will be to develop an appropriate network of expertise, and facilitate communication and collaboration between the TG members, and a range of national and international mining programmes.

There is increasing interest in deep-sea mining for seabed minerals. Resources such as phosphorite and manganese nodules, seafloor massive sulphides, and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crust are being investigated as sources of valuable minerals, such as gold, silver, copper, zinc, cobalt, manganese, and a variety of rare earth elements. However, knowledge of the nature and extent of the resources is far ahead of our understanding of the ecology. Basic biodiversity information is often lacking, let alone data on the ecosystem structure and function. Yet, an understanding of the environmental impacts is central to any development of mining, and hence there is an urgent need to progress research and data on environmental impacts, and how best to manage the mining operation to ensure that long-term ecosystem integrity is not compromised.

The goal of the Thematic Group is to facilitate the compilation of existing data on impacts, evaluate what additional research is required to fill any major gaps in knowledge, and especially investigate options and advise on issues of spatial management to reduce or mitigate any significant effects.

Thematic Group Lead

Dr Malcolm R. Clark (Principal Scientist, Fisheries) NIWA Wellington, New Zealand (


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