العربية  |  English  |  Español  |  Français  |  Русский

Deep Seabed Biodiversity

With the increasing pressure from diverse human activities in marine areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, concerns are being raised that deep-water fish stocks may be at serious risk of depletion. There is clear evidence of detrimental human impacts to cold-water coral, sponge reefs, hydrothermal vents, and seamounts, supporting the need for undertaking conservation action even if our scientific understanding of these ecosystems is still imperfect. Major existing and potential anthropogenic threats are posed by destructive fishing practices and illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, as well as mining, marine scientific research and bioprospecting with destructive impacts. Ocean acidification has been identified as a potentially serious threat to cold-water corals and other deep-water biodiversity.

Information on Research Activities Related to Deep-Seabed Genetic Resources Beyond the Limits of National Jurisdiction

In decision VIII/21, the Conference of the Parties noted that deep-seabed ecosystems beyond the limits of national jurisdiction contain genetic resources of great interest for their biodiversity value and for scientific research as well as for present and future sustainable development and commercial applications. It recognized that given the vulnerability and general lack of scientific knowledge of deep seabed biodiversity, there is an urgent need to enhance scientific research and cooperation and to provide for the conservation and sustainable use of these genetic resources in the context of the precautionary approach.

In paragraph 4 of that decision, the COP invited Parties, other Governments, research institutions and other relevant organizations to make available information on research activities related to deep seabed genetic resources beyond the limits of national jurisdiction and to ensure that the results of such marine scientific research and analysis, when available, are effectively disseminated through international channels, as appropriate, in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. In this decision, the COP requested the Executive Secretary, in collaboration with relevant organizations, to compile and further disseminate such information through the clearing-house mechanism.

In response, Parties, other Governments, relevant research institutions and other relevant organizations were invited to provide information on their research activities for posting on this website by Notification 2006-069, dispatched on 23 June, 2006. Responses were received from the following Parties and other Governments:

Poland
Thailand
European Union
United States

A response was also received from UNESCO, Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences, in the form of the following publications:
A World of Science
UNU-IAS Report: Bioprospecting of Genetic Resources in the Deep Seabed: Scientific, Legal and Policy Aspects
Ruth, L. 2006. Gambling in the deep sea. EMBO reports 7(1), 17–21.
Sheridan, C. 2005. It came from beneath the sea. Nature Biotechnology 23 (10), 1199-1201.

Parties, other Governments and research organizations wishing to add information on their research activities are invited to do so by contacting the Secretariat at secretariat@cbd.int.

In addition, the following list of organizations conducting research activities that encompass the deep-sea and open-ocean environments, including research cruises that explore the deep seabed, was compiled.

British Oceanographic Data Centre
This cruise inventory is a first-level inventory of measurements and samples collected at sea providing information on who has collected what, where and when. It provides a resource to scientists, programme managers and data managers.

Census of Marine Life
The Census of Marine Life is a global network of researchers in more than 70 nations engaged in a ten-year initiative (2000-2010) to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine life in the oceans.

HERMES (Hotspot Ecosystem Research on the Margins of European Seas)
HERMES is an integrated research project designed to gain new insights into the biodiversity, structure, function and dynamics of ecosystems along Europe's deep-ocean margin.

IFREMER (National institute of marine research, France)
The objective of IFREMER's programme on ocean floors and their biodiversity is to explore, with the most powerful tools, ocean floors in order to understand geophysical, geochemical and biological processes and their interactions. This work is intended to contribute to better control of exploitation activities or the use of living, mineral and energy resources, and contribute to the preservation of unique ecosystems.

JAMSTEC (Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology)
JAMSTEC's Extremobiosphere Research Center (XBR) has been focusing on extremophiles, microorganisms living in extremely high-pressure or high-temperature environments where humans can never survive, and investigates their biological properties and the complex marine ecosystem. JAMSTEC operates the manned submersible SHINKAI 6500 and the 3,000 m-class remotely operated vehicle HYPER-DOLPHIN equipped with a high-vision camera, which provide valuable samples and information about deep-sea life.

Research Ship Schedules and Information
This site, maintained by the University of Delaware, maintains a searchable database of research cruise schedules, ship specifications and contact information.

Sailwx.info
This website maintains a worldwide ship tracker, including an oceanographic research vessel tracker.

Sea-Search Research Cruises
Currently, the Cruise Summary Reports (CSRs--the usual means for reporting on field experiments conducted at sea) database covers cruises from 1873 to today from 30 coastal states in Europe - a total of more than 37 000 cruises - in all European waters and global oceans. This also includes historic CSRs from European countries that have been loaded from the ICES database from 1960 onwards.

UNESCO Ocean Portal
The Ocean Portal is a high-level directory of Web sites providing ocean-related data and information.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Research Cruises Databases
This database covers WHOI research cruises from 1931 to 1998. Information includes: cruise dates, chief scientist, ship, sponsor and subjects studied.

Options for Preventing and Mitigating the Impacts of Some Activities to Selected Seabed Habitats

Also in decision VIII/21 (paragraph 7), the COP requested the Executive Secretary, in collaboration with the United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS), and other relevant international organizations, to further analyse and explore options for preventing and mitigating the impacts of some activities to selected seabed habitats and report the findings to future meetings of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice.

In response, the SCBD, in collaboration with DOALOS, prepared an information document called Options for Preventing and Mitigating the Impacts of Some Activities to Selected Seabed Habitats (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/13/INF/13). The document describes a number of options for preventing and mitigating the impacts of some activities on selected seabed habitats, particularly hydrothermal vent, cold-seep, seamount, cold-water coral and sponge-reef ecosystems, each of which contains high levels of endemism and diversity, and is a potential source of new genetic resources with potential commercial applications. These options include (i) the use of codes of conduct, guidelines and principles; (ii) permits and environmental impact assessments; (iii) area-based management of uses, including through establishment of marine protected areas; and (iv) ecosystem-based and integrated management approach.

Synthesis and Review of the Best Available Scientific Studies on Priority Areas for Biodiversity Conservation in Marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction

In response to decision VIII/24 on protected areas (involving options for cooperation for the establishment of marine protected areas in marine areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction), the SCBD produced an information document titled Synthesis and Review of the Best Available Scientific Studies on Priority Areas for Biodiversity Conservation in Marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/13/INF/11). The study concluded that there is clear evidence of detrimental human impacts to cold-water coral, sponge reefs and seamounts, supporting the need for undertaking conservation action even if our scientific understanding of these ecosystems is still imperfect. It also noted that major existing and potential anthropogenic threats include destructive fishing and marine scientific research, as well asbioprospecting and mining.

Development of an Interactive Map (IMap) and Review of Spatial Databases Containing Information on Marine Areas Beyond the Limits of National Jurisdiction

In response to the same decision, the SCBD and the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Center (WCMC), collaborated on developing an up-to-date, on-line, Interactive Map (IMAP) of High Seas Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and Key Habitat Distribution . An information document, Development of an Interactive Map (IMap) and Review of Spatial Databases Containing Information on Marine Areas Beyond the Limits of National Jurisdiction (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/13/INF/12), was also produced.

Expert Workshop on Ecological Criteria and Biogeographic Classification Systems

Also in response to this decision VIII/24, the Expert Workshop on Ecological Criteria and Biogeographic Classification Systems for marine areas in need of protection, organized by the SCBD with financial support from the Government of Portugal (2-4 October 2007, Azores, Portugal), developed:

(a) A consolidated set of scientific criteria for identifying ecologically or biologically significant marine areas in need of protection, in open-ocean waters and deep-sea habitats; and

(b) A consolidated set of scientific criteria for representative networks of marine protected areas, including in open-ocean waters and deep-sea habitats.

The Expert Workshop also described four initial steps to be taken in the development of such networks. The Workshop reviewed biogeographical and ecological classification systems for delineating ocean regions and ecosystems and put forward recommendations for further work. Details are provided in the workshop report.

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme