Deep-ocean biodiversity hotspots

Today we were joined by Prof. Alex David Rogers who gave a seminar entitled “Exploring and Exploiting Deep-Ocean Biodiversity Hotspots.” Alex is Science director of REV Ocean and Visiting professor at the Department of Zoology at University of Oxford. The deep ocean is a vast, undiscovered ecosystem which has only been explored since the last 150 years since the first modern oceanographic expedition of HMS Challenger. Prof. Alex Rogers discussed three important habitats in the deep ocean- hydrothermal vents, seamounts and the abyssal plains. An important expedition to the Southern Ocean vents provided insights into the biogeographic distribution of vent fauna- helping to identify 11 distinct provinces of vent fauna around the world. Seamounts are underwater mountains and are rich biodiversity hotspots covering 4.7% of the seafloor. Human activity such as deep-sea trawling on seamounts have been found to destroy the rich biodiversity such as coral communities. Furthermore, both seamounts and hydrothermal vents, as well as the abyssal plains have been the focus of a controversial deep sea mining activities in recent years. Over 600 scientists as well as companies have asked for a moratorium on deep sea mining as long term impacts remain poorly understood. Prof. Rogers highlighted the need for fundamental basic knowledge and understanding about deep sea biodiversity. We would like to cordially thank him for an informative and insightful seminar on all things deep!

Thank you to all those who could join from many different time zones and for your questions! This is the last seminar of 2021 due to the upcoming holiday season but see you in 2022!

Exploring and Exploiting Deep-Ocean Biodiversity Hotspots

Seabed Habitats Seminar By Prof. Alex David Rogers

Science Director, REV Ocean

We now understand that the deep sea presents a rich and heterogenous environment which plays an important role in the Earth system. Through my own research expeditions, I will focus on two habitats in the deep sea, hydrothermal vents and seamounts. The former is characterised by a highly endemic fauna adapted to extreme conditions and now recognisable as forming 11 distinct biogeographic provinces. The latter is less well explored but characterised by a rich biodiversity as well as being hotspots of activity in the deep sea. Human activities have already impacted seamounts through impacts from deep-sea bottom trawling and the effects of pollution and climate change are already being felt in the deep sea. However, a controversial new activity, deep-sea mining may affect both hydrothermal vents and seamounts as well as abyssal habitats. Some of the new studies on the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone, an area that is of high interest for marine mining are now revealing a more diverse and heterogeneously distributed fauna than previously realised. What this means for management of mining and other human activities in the deep sea will be discussed.

Biography: Professor Alex David Rogers

Science Director, REV Ocean, Norway

Visiting Professor, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford

Alex is a marine ecologist who is interested in how biodiversity is distributed in the ocean, especially in the deep sea and on tropical coral reefs. He is also interested in human impacts on the ocean and how to manage human activities to mitigate or reduce degradation of marine ecosystems. His work has taken him to the Atlantic, Indian and Southern Oceans and to the Caribbean investigating coral reef ecosystems, seamounts and deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Alex has worked with governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations in publicising human impacts, especially those from deep-sea fishing and climate change, and on the development of policy solutions to such problems. He is Scientific Director of REV Ocean a foundation working towards a healthy ocean. Alex recently published the book The Deep: The Hidden Wonders of Our Ocean and How We Can Protect Them Wildfire (2019).

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