The importance of deep sea exploration

Ines Nastali, DPC Editor

One thing that I am truly fascinated about is when researchers are able to uncover some of the many secrets of the deep sea.

Living in harsh conditions, it is not easy to deploy equipment to study molluscs, worms, bacteria, and other micro-organisms that have made the seafloor of the world’s oceans their home. Consequently, the more interesting I find it to learn about those creatures that live around hydrothermal vents, or in complete darkness.

Given that the significance of the world’s oceans is growing with the realisation that they play a role in mitigating climate change by serving as a carbon sink, I do think that more attention needs to be drawn to mapping and investigating what life is like in the deep sea in order to relativise anthropological impacts and in our efforts to reduce the repercussions of climate change.

Recently, MiningImpact, the European research expedition aimed at investigating manganese sources in the Pacific Clarion-Clipperton Zone for potential deep sea mining purposes was concluded. The researchers were astonished to find that two-thirds of recovered species were unknown to the scientific community.

Other researchers from the University of Southern California, United States, found an abundance of survivalists in nutrient-poor waters: marine microbes using the sunshine-grabbing pigment rhodopsin to produce adenosine triphosphate, which is needed in cellular processes. They concluded that with warmer oceans in future, their ability to fixate carbon will be reduced as more of those microbial communities change.

And this lack of knowledge not only includes oceanography but also hydrography, as last month’s DPC poll, asking if the world’s oceans are appropriately mapped, revealed.

All respondents to the poll said, they do not think so. Vahid Sarvghad Moghaddam, port state control officer and hydrographer based in Iran, said that while most territorial waters might be mapped out, the global oceans are inadequately recorded.

Other respondents agreed and said that the world’s oceans are “far from completely mapped”.  For DPC, following the efforts of seabed mapping will therefore be a focus topic in future coverage. Do get in touch to share your involvement.