Scientists discover 5,000 new species in the Pacific and warn of mining risk | Mining News
The Clarion-Clipperton Zone in an area of seabed between Hawaii and Mexico has become the largest mineral exploration region in the world.
A study has identified more than 5,000 new species living in deep-sea habitats in the Pacific Ocean in an area known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), a seabed targeted for mining in the years coming.
The area spans approximately 6 million square kilometers (2.3 million square miles) between Hawaii and Mexico.
Researchers said on Thursday they had identified 5,578 species in the area, 92% of which were new to science.
“There are 438 named and known species in the CCZ,” said the study’s lead author, Muriel Rabone, a deep-sea ecologist at the Natural History Museum in London. “But there are 5,142 unnamed species with informal names.”
“These are species that have yet to be described, which means we might know the genus but cannot identify the species. It’s actually a lot more than I thought.
Most species recorded were arthropods, invertebrates with chitin exoskeletons, such as shrimps, crabs and horseshoe crabs. Others were worms belonging to the annelid and nematode groups.
The scientists used taxonomic surveys for the area that began decades ago as well as data made available by the International Seabed Authority, which asked companies interested in mining to collect and share environmental information.
The findings illustrate that “the CCZ represents significant undescribed biodiversity” and “the novelty of the region at deep taxonomic levels,” said the study, published in the journal Current Biology.
The area, not very sunny, has become the largest mining exploration area in the world. According to research, its seabed contains deposits of nickel, manganese, copper, zinc and cobalt.
In July, the International Seabed Authority, an intergovernmental body that oversees “mineral resource activities,” will begin accepting applications from companies interested in mining the ocean floor.
In September, a mining executive told ABC News that his company could extract minerals without damaging the seabed.
“I mean, why the hell shouldn’t we explore new frontiers? We have to mix it all up,” Gerard Barron, CEO of The Metals Company, a Canada-based company exploring ways to exploit CCZ, told the US broadcaster.
“The question is, what is this impact? How can we mitigate these impacts? And how does this compare to known impacts from land-based activities? And I think that’s a decision that society will have to face,” he said.
But the researchers say more research needs to be done to assess how to protect these ecosystems.
“Taxonomy is the biggest knowledge gap we have when studying these unique habitats. We need to know what lives in these areas before we can begin to understand how to protect these ecosystems,” said study co-author Adrian Glover, a researcher at the Natural History Museum in London.
“We are on the eve of the potential approval of some of the largest deep sea mining operations,” he said. “It is imperative that we work with companies seeking to exploit these resources to ensure that any such activity is conducted in a way that limits its impact on the natural world.”
How many species are found in the Pacific Abyss? Our new journal says more than 6000 and less than 500 have names. Lots of taxonomy to do! With @MurielRabone @adrg1 @helena_wiklund @LupitaBribiesc1 @bokamero @DanielOBJones @mucofloris @NOCnews @NHM_Sciencehttps://t.co/WgmK5nieit
— DiscoveryCollections (@tammy_horton) May 25, 2023
According to research, mineral exploration began in the 1960s and there are 17 mineral exploration contracts covering 1.2 million square kilometers (463,000 square miles) with companies from several countries including Canada, China , the United Kingdom and the United States.
“If there are mining operations and we don’t know what species are there, that’s a big risk,” Rabone told media.
“It’s really important to do this basic taxonomy, to know what species are there, and that creates the foundation for the next step, which is then ecology – what are the [species’] functional traits? Is there a role in the ecosystem where if tapped there will be a weird cascading effect? ” she says.
At first glance, the deep abyss of the #Pacific Ocean may seem inhospitable.
But it’s full of life. A whole range of creatures live in these muddy depths, including this lovely purple sea cucumber.
New research is starting to reveal this diversity #deepsea 🧵1/8 pic.twitter.com/BZXBk1PGiL
— Natural History Museum (@NHM_London) May 25, 2023