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).

Please register for this webinar zoom link and occasional updates:

Exploiting and conserving deep-sea genetic resources

Pleased to invite you to a seminar by Prof. Louise Allcock, Professor of Zoology at National University of Ireland Galway. Louise Allcock became interested in the deep sea through work on deep-water octopods, and has applied her knowledge of molecular systematics to the challenge of identifying poorly-known deep-water fauna to facilitate a range of interdisciplinary deep-sea research.

Ireland’s deep-sea territory is very extensive, and encompasses a range of habitats including carbonate mounds, and submarine canyons.  The marine animal forest – the corals and sponges – are highly diverse, and vulnerable particularly to fishing.  Over the last few years we have carried out multiple expeditions in Irish deep-sea waters, collecting video footage and biological samples with an ROV.  As well as contributing to systematics studies on corals (particularly sea pens, bamboo corals and black corals), we have investigated the pharmaceutical potential of a selection of coral and sponge species by screening extracts through a range of bioassays, and we have elucidated a range of bioactive new compounds.   We have attempted to model the likelihood of any given coral species producing a bioactive compound based on prior knowledge of bioactivity in various coral taxa.  We are in the process of combining this with species distribution modelling for multiple coral species to generate maps of potential bioactivity hotspots that we can use to promote conservation of these important genetic resources.

The webinar will take place on Tuesday 28th September at 1300 BST and will not be recorded, so please join us by registering for occasional updates below:

Cruise aboard RV Thalassa: France – Iceland – Azores

The ICE-CTD research cruise investigated cold water coral reefs and seawater properties around coral and non-coral areas. The objective was to characterise the present and past coral environmental conditions. Coral were sampled for dating, geochemical and genetic studies. The GIS Technician’s job mainly involved using ArcGIS to prepare the ROV dive routes and produce maps. They were also in charge of transferring the real-time data and comparing the real-time routes with the planned dive.

The ship left Brest on the 11th of June and headed straight to the Icelandic waters. It was initially planned to investigate the Logachev mound province but this was cancelled due to bad weather conditions. The ROV was deployed in three locations off southern Iceland and coral reefs were found in each area. Included are pictures from some of the spectacular locations discovered. The ship docked in Reykjavík for one night, allowing everyone to scramble off and explore Iceland’s beautiful scenery (geysers, icesheets, the mid-atlantic ridge, waterfalls!). The ROV team left the ship at Iceland and the rest of the team continued down the middle of the Atlantic to the Azores. CTD measurements were taken along the way and ARGOS floats were deployed, but it was a much quieter cruise on the way back.

Here is the link to the cruise blog:

Image Credits

All the pictures are taken by the GENAVIR ROV team and are credited to the following source: ICE-CTD cruise on N/O Thalassa, conducted by the LSCE and IFREMER under the lead of Dr. Norbert Frank, Laboratory for Climate and Environmental Research LSCE. (links: and and contact email and and to Fiona Stapleton, National University of Ireland, Galway.