Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists call for new stewardship of the deep ocean: Earth's last frontier

17.02.2014
Growing industrialization threatens the deep ocean's ecosystems, considered key to the health of the planet

The deep ocean, the largest domain for life on earth, is also its least explored environment. Humans are now encroaching more vigorously than ever into the ocean's deep regions, exploiting the deep's resources and placing its wealth of vibrant habitats and natural services for the planet at risk.

Lisa Levin, a biological oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, believes the vital functions provided by the deep sea—from carbon sequestration to nurturing fish stocks—are key to the health of the planet. As humans ramp up exploitation of deep-sea fish, energy, minerals, and genetic resources, a new "stewardship mentality" across countries, economic sectors, and disciplines is required, Levin says, for the future health and integrity of the deep ocean.

Levin and several other experts will describe this need during "Deep-Ocean Industrialization: A New Stewardship Frontier" at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago at a news briefing (noon, Central Standard Time, Sunday, Feb. 16, AAAS Newsroom Headquarters: St. Gallen 2 room, Swissôtel, 323 East Upper Wacker Drive, Chicago, Ill. 60601) and scientific presentation (1:30-4:30 p.m. CST, Sunday, Feb. 16, Columbus EF at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 East Wacker Drive, Chicago, Ill., 60601).

As the human population has more than doubled in the past 50 years, demand for food, energy, and raw materials from the sea has risen with it.

"At the same time, human society has undergone tremendous changes and we rarely, if ever, think about these affecting our ocean, let alone the deep ocean," said Levin, who has conducted research on the deep sea for more than 30 years. "But the truth is that the types of industrialization that reigned in the last century on land are now becoming a reality in the deep ocean."

"As we exhaust many coastal stocks, commercial fishers have turned towards deeper waters," said Levin.

Beyond marine life depletion, the deep sea also is being threatened by the search for new sources for energy and precious materials. Oil and gas exploration now routinely targets seabeds in more than a thousand meters of water depth. Demand for modern technology devices—from cell phones to hybrid car batteries—has fueled a push by the mining sector to deep waters in search of new sources of metals and other materials.

"Vast tracts of deep seabed are now being leased in order to mine nodules, crusts, sulfides, and phosphates rich in elements demanded by our advanced economy," said Levin. She added that rising carbon dioxide emissions are exposing deep-sea ecosystems to additional stress from climate change impacts that include warmer temperatures, altered food supplies, and declining pH and oxygen levels.

"Extraction from the deep sea is a tradeoff. Is the value of what we're extracting greater than the damage?" asks Linwood Pendleton, director of the Ocean and Coastal Policy Program at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University. "Are there ways to extract that might be more economically costly but have lower ecological impact? How can we repair the considerable damage that has already been done to the sea floor through trawling, pollution, and other practices? These are questions that we need to answer before industrial activity gets ahead of scientific understanding."

The deep sea holds a nearly infinite amount of genetic diversity, some of which could provide novel materials or future therapeutics to treat human diseases, but if not protected, these could be disturbed or lost before we discover them.

The need to preserve deep-sea ecosystems in the face of growing industrialization of the deep ocean, Levin says, requires a new "precautionary" mode of thinking about the deep sea that promotes sustainable, ecosystem-based management across industrial sectors and governance realms.

"We need international cooperation and an entity that can develop and oversee deep-ocean stewardship," said Levin. "We also need multiple sources of research funding that can help provide the scientific information that we need to manage the deep sea. All of this will require efforts that bridge several disciplines and engage stakeholders in these discussions."

"It is imperative to work with industry and governance bodies to put progressive environmental regulations in place before industry becomes established, instead of after the fact," said Cindy Lee Van Dover, director of the Duke University Marine Laboratory. "One hundred years from now, we want people to say 'they got this right based on the science they had, they weren't asleep at the wheel.'"

"From a legal perspective, the deep ocean is filled with contradictions. Deep sea mineral resources located beyond national boundaries are part of the 'Common Heritage of Mankind' under international law, but the fish and octopi that swim just above the seafloor are not," said Kristina Gjerde, senior high seas advisor to IUCN—the International Union for Conservation of Nature. "To prevent harm we can never hope to repair, precautionary rules need to be in place to guide all human uses of the deep ocean across boundaries and across sectors."

Other AAAS participants include Samantha Smith (Nautilus Minerals) and Bronwen Currie (National Marine Information and Research Center). The scientific symposium is sponsored by the Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative and the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at Scripps.

With its decades-long history of deep-sea exploration, Scripps is recognized as a world leader in investigating the science of the deep ocean, from exploring the deep's geological features and researching its exotic marine life inhabitants, to development of sensor and sampling technologies.

For more information or to get involved:
http://www.indeep-project.org/deep-ocean-stewardship-initiative

Mario Aguilera | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucsd.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Predicting eruptions using satellites and math
28.06.2017 | Frontiers

nachricht NASA sees quick development of Hurricane Dora
27.06.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersensitive through quantum entanglement

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy under real ambient pressure conditions

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Mice provide insight into genetics of autism spectrum disorders

28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>