Restoration experiments in polymetallic nodule areas

sabine.gollner [ at ]


Deep-seabed polymetallic nodule mining could have multiple adverse effects on benthic communities, such as permanent loss of habitat by removal of nodules and habitat modification of sediments. One tool to manage biodiversity risks is the mitigation hierarchy, including avoidance, minimization of impacts, rehabilitation/restoration, and offset. We initiated long-term restoration experiments at sites in polymetallic nodule exploration contract areas in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone that were (i) cleared of nodules by a pre-prototype mining vehicle, (ii) disturbed by dredge or sledge, (iii) undisturbed, and (iv) naturally devoid of nodules. To accommodate for habitat loss, we deployed > 2000 artificial ceramic nodules to study the possible effect of substrate provision on recovery of biota and its impact on sediment biogeochemistry. Seventy-five nodules were recovered after eight weeks and had not been colonized by any sessile epifauna. All other nodules will remain on the seafloor for several years before recovery. Furthermore, to account for habitat modification of the top sediment layer, sediment in an epibenthic sledge track was loosened by a metal rake to test the feasibility of sediment decompaction to facilitate soft-sediment recovery. Analyses of granulometry and nutrients one month after sediment decompaction revealed that sand fractions are proportionally lower within the decompacted samples, whereas TOC values are higher. Considering the slow natural recovery rates of deep-sea communities, these experiments represent the beginning of a ~30 year study during which we expect to gain insights into thenature and timing of the development of hard-substrate communities and the influence of nodules on recovery of disturbed sediment communities. Results will help to understand adverse long-term effects of nodule removal, providing an evidence base for setting criteria for the definition of “serious harm” to the environment. Furthermore, accompanying research is needed to define a robust ecosystem baseline in order to effectively identify restoration success.

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Primary Division
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Helmholtz Cross Cutting Activity (2021-2027)
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DOI 10.1002/ieam.4541

Cite as
Gollner, S. , Haeckel, M. , Janssen, F. , Lefaible, N. , Molari, M. , Papadopoulou, S. , Reichart, G. , Alexandre, J. T. , Vink, A. and Vanreusel, A. (2021): Restoration experiments in polymetallic nodule areas , Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management . doi: 10.1002/ieam.4541

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