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Mentions: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) defines marine litter as “any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material discarded, disposed of or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment”. The first intended (as opposed to accidental) disposal of waste in the deep sea predates scientific interest in this environment. The age of sail gave way to the age of steam at the end of the 18th century and, for the next 150 years, one of the main waste products of steam power was a hard residue of burnt coal called clinker. This material was usually dumped over the ship's side. In a survey on the nodule-free abyssal plain in the northeastern Atlantic, Kidd and Huggett  showed that clinker formed more than 50% of the hard substratum (the other being glacial drop stones) and that this clinker formed a suitable attachment point for the anemone Phelliactis robusta  (Figure 1A), although it appears toxic to other deep-sea species. On the northwestern Mediterranean margin, clinker can provide common substratum to the brachiopod Gryphus vitreus (Figure 1B), but otherwise this substratum is not colonized by sessile metazoan species. In the past, clinker has been disposed of on abyssal plains, sedimentary slopes and in some canyons (Table S1). Major occurrences of clinker may be found off large ports where steamships cleaned their boilers (Tyler pers. obs.). Clinker is no longer dumped into the ocean because steam power is no longer used over the deep ocean and modern regulations would prevent its disposal. Thus, the impacts of clinker in providing hard substratum are stable or declining with sediment accumulation.
Man and the Last Great Wilderness: Human Impact on the Deep Sea
Bottom Line: The analysis is the result of a Census of Marine Life--SYNDEEP workshop (September 2008).A detailed review of known impacts and their effects is provided.Synergies between different anthropogenic pressures and associated effects are discussed, indicating that most synergies are related to increased atmospheric CO(2) and climate change effects.
Affiliation: Institut de Ciències del Mar, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Barcelona, Spain.
Abstract: The deep sea, the largest ecosystem on Earth and one of the least studied, harbours high biodiversity and provides a wealth of resources. Although humans have used the oceans for millennia, technological developments now allow exploitation of fisheries resources, hydrocarbons and minerals below 2000 m depth. The remoteness of the deep seafloor has promoted the disposal of residues and litter. Ocean acidification and climate change now bring a new dimension of global effects. Thus the challenges facing the deep sea are large and accelerating, providing a new imperative for the science community, industry and national and international organizations to work together to develop successful exploitation management and conservation of the deep-sea ecosystem. This paper provides scientific expert judgement and a semi-quantitative analysis of past, present and future impacts of human-related activities on global deep-sea habitats within three categories: disposal, exploitation and climate change. The analysis is the result of a Census of Marine Life--SYNDEEP workshop (September 2008). A detailed review of known impacts and their effects is provided. The analysis shows how, in recent decades, the most significant anthropogenic activities that affect the deep sea have evolved from mainly disposal (past) to exploitation (present). We predict that from now and into the future, increases in atmospheric CO(2) and facets and consequences of climate change will have the most impact on deep-sea habitats and their fauna. Synergies between different anthropogenic pressures and associated effects are discussed, indicating that most synergies are related to increased atmospheric CO(2) and climate change effects. We identify deep-sea ecosystems we believe are at higher risk from human impacts in the near future: benthic communities on sedimentary upper slopes, cold-water corals, canyon benthic communities and seamount pelagic and benthic communities. We finalise this review with a short discussion on protection and management methods.