What lurks beneath the deep blue sea?
According to one new study, we really don't know.
These conclusions were published by the University of Oxford in the journal Molecular Ecology, based on an audit of all the information that has been published to date on deep sea invertebrates. Invertebrates dominate deep sea regions and include coral gardens, snails, and urchins.
The researchers found that only 77 studies have been published on population genetics of the deep sea. Many of the papers focused on more shallow regions of the deep sea and only nine looked at regions below 3,500 meters—50 percent of the Earth's surface.
So why does it matter that we know so little about these mysterious ocean dwellers? In order to protect them, people need to understand how they live, the scientists noted. Successful marine conservation measures will require protecting animal migrations, reducing noise in critical habitats, and designating the right biodiverse areas for full protections as parks.
"At a time where the exploitation of deep sea resources is increasing, scientists are still trying to understand basic aspects of the biology and ecology of deep sea communities," Christopher Roterman, a postdoctoral researcher at Oxford's Department of Zoology, said in a press release. "What we don't know at present is how human activities and climate change will affect these populations in the future, but history tells us that we shouldn't be complacent."
He noted fisheries currently represent the biggest direct threat, but metal mining is predicted to grow.
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