Ecological risk assessment for deep-sea mining

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© 2019 The Authors Ecological risk assessment for deep-sea mining is challenging, given the data-poor state of knowledge of deep-sea ecosystem structure, process, and vulnerability. Polling and a scale-intensity-consequence approach (SICA) were used in an expert elicitation survey to rank risk sources and perceived vulnerabilities of habitats associated with seabed nodule, sulfide, and crust mineral resources. Experts identified benthic habitats associated with seabed minerals as most vulnerable to habitat removal with a high degree of certainty. Resource-associated benthic and pelagic habitats were also perceived to be at risk from plumes generated during mining activities, although there was not always consensus regarding vulnerabilities to specific risk sources from different types of plumes. Even for risk sources where habitat vulnerability measures were low, high uncertainties suggest that these risks may not yet be dismissed. Survey outcomes also underscore the need for risk assessment to progress from expert opinion with low certainty to data-rich and ecosystem-relevant scientific research assessments to yield much higher certainty. This would allow for design and deployment of effective precautionary and mitigation efforts in advance of commercial exploitation, and adaptive management strategies would allow for regulatory and guideline modifications in response to new knowledge and greater certainty.






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Washburn, TW, PJ Turner, JM Durden, DOB Jones, P Weaver and CL Van Dover (2019). Ecological risk assessment for deep-sea mining. Ocean and Coastal Management, 176. pp. 24–39. 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2019.04.014 Retrieved from

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