A fish and brittle star in a field of polymetallic nodules. Photo credit by Diva Amon and Craig Smith

A fish and brittle star in a field of polymetallic nodules. Photo credit by Diva Amon and Craig Smith

In a study published in Scientific Reports, scientists discovered impressive abundance and diversity among the creatures living on the seafloor in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone — an area in the equatorial Pacific Ocean being targeted for deep-sea mining, according to a University of Hawai‘i news release.

The study, lead-authored by Diva Amon, a post-doctoral researcher at UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, found that more than half of the species they collected were new to science, reiterating how little is known about life on the seafloor in this region.

“We found that this exploration claim area harbors one of the most diverse communities of megafauna (animals over 2 cm in size) to be recorded at abyssal depths in the deep sea,” Amon said.

Surveying the Next Frontier

A cnidarian attached to a dead sponge stalk on a nodule. Photo credit by Diva Amon and Craig Smith

A cnidarian attached to a dead sponge stalk on a nodule. Photo credit by Diva Amon and Craig Smith

The deep sea is where the next frontier of mining will take place. A combination of biological, chemical and geological processes has led to the formation of high concentrations of polymetallic “manganese” nodules on the deep seafloor in the CCZ — an area nearly the size of the contiguous United States. These nodules are potentially valuable sources of copper, nickel, cobalt and manganese, among other metals, which has led to an interest in mining this region. All of the potential polymetallic-nodule exploration contracts that have been granted in the Pacific are in this region, according to the International Seabed Authority.

This study, part of the