Deep sea mining could pose a danger to local jellyfish populations, a new study suggests. The first-of-its-kind study was conducted by researchers and marine ecologists and aims to see just how much deep sea mining affects the wildlife that calls the sea floor home.
There are, of course, several benefits to mining the ocean floor, including access to rare minerals and elements that we can’t find in high concentrations above the ocean surface. However, mining under the sea could actually cause harm to deep sea jellyfish, as sediment stirred up from the mining sites could activate potentially damaging stress responses in the creatures, the researchers say.
When stressed, deep-sea jellyfish and other cnidarians like them excrete mucus. The study’s co-lead, Vannessa Stenvers, says that when sediment concentrations within the water are above 17 mg/l (milligrams per liter), any exposed jellyfish produce excessive amounts of mucus, covering their bodies in the gunk.
This, the researchers say, is a sign of acute stress within the jellyfish, and that producing so much mucus can actually expend a ton of energy from the deep-sea jellyfish, making long-term excretion of high levels of mucus extremely damaging to their health, especially if they are exposed to high sediment levels for longer periods of time.
One of the biggest reasons the researchers are concerned about the effects of deep sea mining on these jellyfish populations is because food in the deep sea is extremely scarce. That means that any extra energy that is burned is undoubtedly harder to regain. And if there is no extra energy coming in, the jellyfish could potentially starve to death.
It’s a terrible revelation and one that will probably go unheeded by many companies too focused on the riches that deep sea mining could bring to the table. Still, it’s good to see researchers discovering the dangers deep sea mining could pose to these jellyfish. Hopefully, companies keep that in mind as they scour the bottom of our oceans for rare minerals and materials.
The study is published in Nature Communications.