By Anthony Harris
Words like immeasurable, dark, and mysterious have been used in the past to describe the deep sea. Beyond that, this environment is a critical part of our ecosystem, and unfortunately, these formerly elusive habitats of the world’s oceans are in jeopardy due to various human and environmental factors.
A recent analysis published in Biogeosciences by OSU marine scientist and lead author Andrew Thurber characterizes the benefits the deep ocean provides for everyone. According to Thurber, the often overlooked deep sea is a vital resource to humans. For instance, the habitat can act as a sink to store greenhouse gases and assist in balancing the increase of carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere. It also reproduces nutrients needed to sustain the marine food web of coastal systems in the Pacific Northwest and other regions.
The analysis points to increased human use such as fishing and mining for metals, oil, and gas as two of the most concerning activities that could compromise deeper ocean levels now and in the future. Advanced technology has given commercial fisheries the ability to harvest deeper than before (reportedly 62.5 meters deeper every decade) with most fish populations experiencing a rapid decline. The sea floor is also at risk from constant mining. Climate change and pollution were the other concerns, especially pollution which can harm the harvest and the fishermen collecting it.
Researchers say global effort is needed to preserve these immeasurable habitats, and the many benefits which they provide humans and the environment.