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The community structure of deep-sea macrofauna associated with polymetallic nodules in the eastern part of the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone
De Smet, B.; Pape, E.; Riehl, T.; Bonifacio, P.; Colson, L.; Vanreusel, A. (2017). The community structure of deep-sea macrofauna associated with polymetallic nodules in the eastern part of the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone. Front. Mar. Sci. 4(103): 1-14. https://hdl.handle.net/10.3389/fmars.2017.00103
In: Frontiers in Marine Science. Frontiers Media: Lausanne. ISSN 2296-7745, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keywords
    Biodiversity; Deep sea; Deep-sea mining
Author keywords
    polymetallic nodules; macrofauna; CCFZ; community structure;

Authors  Top 
  • Bonifacio, P.
  • Colson, L., more
  • Vanreusel, A., more

Abstract
    Deep-sea areas characterized by the presence of polymetallic nodules are getting increased attention due to their potential commercial and strategic interest for metals such as nickel, copper, and cobalt. The polymetallic nodules occur in areas beyond national jurisdiction, regulated by the International Seabed Authority (ISA). Under exploration contracts, contractors have the obligation to determine the environmental baseline in the exploration areas. Despite a large number of scientific cruises to the central east Pacific Ocean, few published data on the macrofaunal biodiversity and community structure are available for the abyssal fields of the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone (CCFZ). This study focused on the macrofaunal abundance, diversity, and community structure in three physically comparable, mineable sites located in the license area of Global Sea Mineral Resources N.V. (GSR), at ~4,500 m depth. A homogeneous but diverse macrofaunal community associated with the sediment from polymetallic nodule areas was observed at a scale of 10 to 100 s of km. However, slight differences in the abundance and diversity of Polychaeta between sites can be explained by a decline in the estimated flux of particulate organic carbon (POC) along a southeast-northwest gradient, as well as by small differences in sediment characteristics and nodule abundance. The observed homogeneity in the macrofaunal community is an important prerequisite for assigning areas for impact and preservation reference zones. However, a precautionary approach regarding mining activities is recommended, awaiting further research during the exploration phase on environmental factors structuring macrofaunal communities in the CCFZ. For instance, future studies should consider habitat heterogeneity, which was previously shown to structure macrofauna communities at larger spatial scales. Acknowledging the limited sampling in the current study, a large fraction (59-85%; depending on the richness estimator used and the macrofaunal taxon of interest) of the macrofaunal genus/species diversity from the habitat under study was characterized.

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