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Anthropogenic Impacts on the Deep-Sea. Tyler Boucher Amy Walsh December 2 nd . 2009. Topics of Interest. Petroleum in the Deep Sea Deep Sea mining for petroleum Potential for waste disposal in the Deep Sea Specific examples of anthropogenic impacts

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anthropogenic impacts on the deep sea

Anthropogenic Impacts on the Deep-Sea

Tyler Boucher

Amy Walsh

December 2nd. 2009

topics of interest
Topics of Interest
  • Petroleum in the Deep Sea
  • Deep Sea mining for petroleum
  • Potential for waste disposal in the Deep Sea
  • Specific examples of anthropogenic impacts
  • Potential for Deep Sea mining of manganese nodules
  • Conservation efforts

Petroleum in the Deep Sea

  • 5-6 million tons of oil enters the ocean/yr.
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Direct toxicity
  • Behavioural changes
  • Tissue damage
  • Deep Sea organisms may handle toxins in an alternative manor
  • Majority of hydrocarbons have an anthropogenic origin
  • Other origins are possible

transportation of petroleum
Transportation of petroleum
  • Petroleum can be transported a number of ways:
    • Spreading
    • Evaporation
    • Dissolution
    • Emulsification
    • Photochemical modification
    • Biological ingestion and excretion
    • Tar ball formation
    • Interaction of petroleum with ice
water mass transport
Water Mass Transport
  • Pollutants move with the body of water
    • North Atlantic
    • Weddell sea
    • Circumpolar Antarctic
  • Rip currents and turbidity flows can carry sediments and associated oil to the deep sea

biological transportation
Biological Transportation
  • Transport by fecal pellets
  • Transport by exoskeletons
  • Transport by vertical migrators

interactions between petroleum and particulate matter
Interactions between petroleum and particulate matter
  • Formation of solid or liquid particles of hydrocarbons
  • Sorption of hydrocarbons
  • Flocculation of suspended , colloidal or dissolved hydrocarbons
  • Formation of solid or liquid particles of hydrocarbons
  • Sorption of hydrocarbons
  • Flocculation of suspended , colloidal or dissolved hydrocarbons

biological effects
Biological effects
  • Microorganisms
  • Fish and crustaceans
  • Metabolism
  • Physiology
potential for deep sea mining of petroleum
Potential for deep-sea mining of Petroleum
  • Crude Oil – hydrocarbons
    • Heating of OM over geological time scales
  • Oil Reservoirs need:
    • Source rock rich in hydrocarbons
    • Porous and permeable reservoir rock
    • Cap rock (seal)
  • Hydrocarbons trapped in porous reservoirs, liquids can be mined

560,000,000 tons of oil mined from the ocean/yr.

  • Potential in 3 offshore oceanic provinces = 26% of world’s oceans
  • 1. Continental Slopes
    • Type A
    • Type B
    • Type C
    • Type D
    • Type E
    • Type F

Emery, 1979


2. Small Deep Marginal Basins

    • Convergent continental margins
    • Origin from subsidence of area between island arc and adjacent continent (Bering Sea, Mediterranean Sea)
    • High OM, sedimentation rates, abundant coarse-grained sediments = Excellent source and reservoir beds
  • 3. Continental rise
    • High amounts of sediment accumulation from turbidity currents and pelagic “raining down”
potential waste disposal
Potential waste disposal
  • Nuclear power is abundant and inexpensive
  • Resulting radioactive waste is dangerous
  • Radioactive waste is increasing
  • Isolation of radioactive waste is necessary
  • Waste has a long half-life
  • Disposal can be an issue
  • The ocean could provide a solution to the radioactive waste
    • Inexpensive
    • Large area

The ocean also may also have some disadvantages to this specific waste disposal

    • Long half-life of radioactive material
    • Sea water is caustic
    • Material may be transported to unfavorable regions

The ocean may work for burial of waste under the correct conditions:

    • Geological stability
    • Low biological productivity
    • Minimal economic value
    • Large area
    • Stable climate
    • Sediment medium with high retention abilities
    • Remote area
  • Under the correct conditions the deposited waste could remain outside of the biosphere for the duration of the half-life

Other considerations must be taken into account to make an educated decision

    • Disturbance from the burial
    • Heat from decaying waste
  • What could happen if the waste reaches the biosphere?
    • Disturbances to organisms
  • Much more information is needed
    • Experimentation
    • May still be too complex to understand fully
trace metals in deep sea sharks from the rockall trough
Trace Metals in Deep Sea Sharks from the Rockall Trough
  • Vas and Gordon, 1993.
  • Western edge of European continental shelf
  • Examined tissue specimens of 13 species of shark from various bathymetric zones
  • Interested in tissue concentrations of Cu, Mn, Ni

  • Cu
    • In ¼ of all tissue samples
    • Highest concentrations in skin tissue samples of upper slope shark species
    • Relationship between concentration and trophic behaviour
  • Mn
    • 22% of all tissue samples
    • Almost all contained <1.5 µg/g
    • Highest concentrations in gill and vertebral tissues

D. calceus,

E. spinax,



    • In 45% of all samples
    • Highest concentrations in skin and vertebral tissue samples
    • Extremely high in muscle tissue and gonads of D.Calceus.
    • Little variation with depth
  • General Trends and Explanations
    • Concentrations decrease with increasing depth
    • Higher concentrations in external tissues
      • Exposure to anthropogenic inputs from land
    • Vertebrae tissue- only samples with all metals accumulated
      • Link between calcification and metal uptake? (Wright, 1977).
blindness in vent shrimp
Blindness in Vent Shrimp
  • Herring et al. (1999)
  • Rimicaris exoculata and Mirocaris fortunata
  • Inhabitants of Deep Sea vents
  • Accustomed to low light settings


Submersibles equipped with bright lights investigate the vents

  • Bright lights are damaging to the eyes of the shrimp


Pink-eyed specimen had rhabdom layer (photoreceptors)

  • White-eyed specimen were lacking the rhabdom layer

Herring, et al., 1999


More studies are necessary to confirm the cause of the blindness

  • All vents visited to date have had submersibles with bright lights
  • Other factors may be causing the blindness
deep ocean mining
Deep Ocean Mining
  • Manganese nodules **
    • Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn
    • ~10 kg/m² (Bath and Greger, 1988).
    • Hydrogenous, biogenic, hydrothermal, diagenetic, & halmyrolitic formation
    • Few mm.̸million yrs.
  • Metalliferous muds
  • Volcanegenic sulphide deposits
  • Fertilizer resources
  • Pharmaceuticals – marine bioprospecting

Minami-torishima Island,


Potential manganese nodule mining concept (Oebius et al., 2001)

  • System 1Surface Mining Platform
  • System 2Lift Pipe
  • System 3The Miner
    • Carriers
    • Collectors
    • German VWS-Berlin hybrid collector
  • System 4Waste Water re-circulation
  • Cloud

Oebius et al., 2001

impacts of mining processes
Impacts of mining processes
  • Extraction from bottom
    • 1000 tons ̸day nodules=4000 tons̸day sediment
    • Extreme direct disturbance on benthic fauna
    • Benthic plumes form, suffocation
    • Transport with currents, widespread effect
  • Impact in water column
    • Discharge forms 2nd plume
    • Limit light penetration, primary production
    • Affects food chain
    • Bacterial uptake of oxygen
impacts of mining processes28
Impacts of mining processes
  • Could take up to 1000 yrs for communities to be restored
  • Dumping of metal residues, highly toxic to marine organisms
  • Acids, toxic metals, trace elements
  • Long-term exposure to heavy metals
  • Bioaccumulation
  • Some proposed mining sites are also fishing locations
  • Attraction of deep-sea organisms to mining apparatus or plumes
  • Disrupted spawning
  • Site selection important

global conservation
Global Conservation
  • Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
    • Provide refuges for recovery and growth
    • Entire ecosystems
    • Build resilient communities, preservation
    • Increase biodiversity
    • Increase fishing resources
  • Strong importance in the deep sea
    • Unique habitats
    • Endemic species
global conservation30
Global Conservation
  • 5. Rockall Bank
  • Upwelling leading to rich planktonic life
  • 130 fish species
  • Cold water coral communities
  • Trawling of deep-water fish a threat
  • 6. Rockall Trough/Channel
  • Cold water corals
  • Rich deep sea fish communities
  • Carbonate mound fields
  • 8. BIOTRANS abyssal plain
  • Deep-sea mud research
  • Very high benthic fauna diversity

global conservation31
Global Conservation
  • Need to form rules, regulations, and procedures
  • Establish regular monitoring program
  • Suspension of activities in presence of serious environmental harm
  • Decisions to proceed accompanied with protection plans
  • International collaborations
additonal references
Additonal References
  • Emery, K.O. 1979. Potential for deep-ocean petroleum. Ambio Sp. Rep. 6:87-92.
  • Nature. 398(6723): 116.
  • Herring, P.J., Gaten, E., Shelton, P.M.J. 1999. Are vent shrimps blinded by science?
  • Hessler, R.R., Jumars, P.A. 1979. The relation of benthic communities to radioactive waste disposal in the deep sea. Ambio Sp. Rep. 6:93-96.
  • Hjalmar, T. and G.Shriever. 1990. Deep-Sea Mining, Environmental Impact and the DISCOL project. Ambio, 19(5): 245-250.
  • Karinen, J.F. 1980. Petroleum in the deep see environment: Potential for damage to biota. Environ. Int. 3(2): 135-144.
  • Oebius, H.U. et al., 2001. Parameterization and evaluation of anthropogenic marine environmental impacts produced by deep-sea manganese nodules mining. Deep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography. 48(17-18): 3453-3467
  • Vas, P., Gordon, J.D.M. 1993. Trace metals in deep-sea sharks from the Rockall Trough. Mar. Poll. Bull. 26(7): 400-402.