More than 5,000 new species of marine creatures have been discovered in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), which lies in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the coast of Mexico. This area is the most promising area for mining rare metals and other valuable resources.
An international team of scientists from the US, the UK and other countries conducted the first comprehensive study of the biodiversity of the CCZ underwater zone, covering 2.7 million km2. The study showed that this area is home to more than 5,500 previously unstudied species. To study and collect samples from the ocean floor, biologists joined research expeditions in the Pacific Ocean that send remotely operated vehicles to study the seafloor at depths of 4 to 6 km.
The vast majority of identified organisms in the CCZ were unique to the region. Only six of the species detected have been seen elsewhere. The most common species found on the bottom of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone were various arthropods, worms, spiders and echinoderms, including sea urchins and sponges.
Exploration contracts in the CCZ have already been awarded to 17 contractors from the United States, China and the United Kingdom. The companies plan to mine the seabed for cobalt, manganese and nickel, resources needed for the renewable energy industry and electric vehicles.
However, scientists warn of the possible consequences of mining the resources on the ocean floor. The study’s lead author, Dr. Adrian Glover, a deep-sea biologist at the Museum of Natural History in the United States, notes that scientists should work closely with companies mining resources on the seafloor to limit the impact of the work on the underwater world.
“Resource extraction on the ocean floor can have serious consequences for the marine ecosystem, and we need to be prepared for that,” Glover says.
There is also the risk of contaminating seawater and damaging coral reefs, which play an important role in maintaining biodiversity in the ocean.
Nevertheless, mining rare metals and other valuable resources from the ocean floor could be key to the development of the renewable energy industry and electric vehicles. Cobalt, manganese and nickel are essential components for the production of lithium-ion batteries, which are used in most electric vehicles.
CCZ’s underwater biodiversity study highlights the need to balance resource extraction and conservation of the marine ecosystem. Scientists will continue to work on studying the area to better understand its potential and possible risks.