Deep-sea Mining Impacts on Diverse Ocean Ecosystems

Date: September 1, 2020

Source: Sciworthy
Author: Andrea Corpolongo

Sunlight does not reach the deepest parts of the ocean, but life still thrives in the darkness. Below depths of 200 meters, where sunlight cannot reach, some organisms eat organic material that falls from the sunlit zone. For these organisms, photosynthetic organisms, such as phytoplankton and algae, form the basis of the food web. Other deep-sea organisms depend on a process called chemosynthesis, which is growth using energy from chemical reactions, rather than from the sun, as in photosynthesis.

Chemosynthesis is performed by many different types of microorganisms. Chemosynthetic microorganisms are primary producers, like plants, because they can use sources of energy that other organisms can’t use to form sugars, fats, and proteins that other organisms can consume. Groups of these microorganisms colonize seafloor deposits of certain minerals that they need to make sugars, fats, and proteins. These minerals, such as iron, manganese, cobalt, and sulfides, are also used by humans and are frequent targets of deep sea mining.

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