Assessing the temporal scale of deep-sea mining impacts on sediment biogeochemistry

lhaffert [ at ]


Deep-sea mining for polymetallic nodules is expected to have severe environmental impacts because not only nodules but also benthic fauna and the upper reactive sediment layer are removed through the mining operation and blanketed by resettling material from the suspended sediment plume. This study aims to provide a holistic assessment of the biogeochemical recovery after a disturbance event by applying prognostic simulations based on an updated diagenetic background model and validated against novel data on microbiological processes. It was found that the recovery strongly depends on the impact type; complete removal of the reactive surface sediment reduces benthic release of nutrients over centuries, while geochemical processes after resuspension and mixing of the surface sediment are near the pre-impact state 1 year after the disturbance. Furthermore, the geochemical impact in the DISturbance and reCOLonization (DISCOL) experiment area would be mitigated to some degree by a clay-bound Fe(II)-reaction layer, impeding the downward diffusion of oxygen, thus stabilizing the redox zonation of the sediment during transient post-impact recovery. The interdisciplinary (geochemical, numerical and biological) approach highlights the closely linked nature of benthic ecosystem functions, e.g. through bioturbation, microbial biomass and nutrient fluxes, which is also of great importance for the system recovery. It is, however, important to note that the nodule ecosystem may never recover to the pre-impact state without the essential hard substrate and will instead be dominated by different faunal communities, functions and services.

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DOI 10.5194/bg-17-2767-2020

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Haffert, L. , Haeckel, M. , de Stigter, H. and Janssen, F. (2020): Assessing the temporal scale of deep-sea mining impacts on sediment biogeochemistry , Biogeosciences, 17 (10), pp. 2767-2789 . doi: 10.5194/bg-17-2767-2020

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