Deep-sea Canyons and Seeps Discovered Off U.S. Northeast

SeaDiscovery.com
Monday, August 05, 2013
ROV Deep Discoverer investigates the geomorphology of Block Canyon. (Credit: NOAA)

Ocean explorers in July on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer discovered a wide diversity of seafloor features and communities of life in the largely unexplored deep-sea canyons off the northeast U.S. coast. Now through August 16, as the expedition continues, the public can join the mission as "citizen scientists," at oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos, to see live seafloor video and listen as scientists discuss their observations in real time. During the expedition's July leg, there were nearly 60,000 visits to the live streaming video.

Canyons represent some of the most striking features of the continental slope off the U.S. East Coast and may also be among the most productive areas in the deep sea. Organic matter and nutrient-rich sediments are often concentrated in these areas and strong currents flow through the steep and rugged terrain of the canyons, exposing hard substrates. With an increase in food availability and a variety of different habitat types across varying depths, submarine canyons may contain higher biodiversity and biomass than the adjacent continental slope, and are likely places to observe deep-sea corals, sponges, and other deep-sea marine organisms.

During the July leg of the expedition, the ship's multibeam sonar detected bubbles rising from the seafloor in several locations about 90 nautical miles southeast of Nantucket, Mass. These water-column plumes were traced to seafloor seeps where explorers observed chemosynthetic communities of life supported by chemicals rather than by sunlight. These are the northernmost seeps detected to date on the U.S. Atlantic margin.

The discoveries are expected to help fisheries and other ocean resource managers make better-informed decisions about how to manage, use and protect the ocean and its resources. Scientists believe the need to learn more about these relatively undisturbed canyon ecosystems is becoming more urgent, particularly as the potential for fishing, marine mining, and hydrocarbon exploration extends into the deep sea.

"We found these little-explored canyons are highly dynamic," said Tim Shank, a deep-sea biologist from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who participated from ashore. "With each dive of the ROVs (remotely operated vehicles that are undersea robots with cameras), we documented vertical walls with jagged rock failures, collapsed features, and extensive debris fields. Each canyon also appeared to host different biological communities-even different depths within the same canyon would reveal different types of coral and sponge ecosystems.

"As we explored different sides and depth zones of these canyons, we discovered a broad physical and biological diversity," said Shank. "One canyon would host great animal diversity but low animal abundance and the next canyon would reveal just the opposite. As with any new deep-sea region we explore, we observed many suspected new species and remarkable range extensions of known species. All these observations will be highly informative to design and implement ocean conservation and management strategies in the near future."

Explorers also observed several instances of new coral life establishing itself, hundreds of skate and cat shark eggs on the seafloor and attached to deep-sea corals, and numerous octopus and squid guarding clutches of eggs. Initial impressions revealed these canyons are hot spots for biodiversity, hosting more than 25 species of corals, and hundreds of associated animals.

Andrea Quattrini, a Ph.D. student from Temple University in Philadelphia, said the expedition provided an immense opportunity for the ocean science and management communities to educate and train the next generation of explorers and deep-sea scientists.

"Their ability to interact with thirty to forty scientists with different areas of expertise, and the free exchange of ideas and discussion, further advanced the exploration and findings by defining new questions and outlining exciting avenues for future research," she said.

Teachers may take advantage of an Expedition Educational Module at http://go.usa.gov/jn2h. The site provides products tied to the expedition including standards-based lesson plans and ocean-career connections.

Brendan Roark, a geographer from Texas A&M University who participated in the expedition from the ship, believes corals in the area may live as long as 4,000 years. "Deep-sea corals provide a new archive that can help us reconstruct past ocean and climate conditions," he said. "They grow in a shrub-like fashion and most importantly, they deposit annual growth rings much like trees do. Because of their extremely long life spans, they may develop high resolution records of oceanographic and climate variability."

noaa.gov
 

Maritime Reporter May 2015 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Environmental

Shell CEO Backs Fossil Fuels, Climate Change Warnings

The world's fossil fuel reserves cannot be burned unless some way is found to capture their carbon emissions, Royal Dutch Shell Plc Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden said on Friday.

Severe Flooding Cuts Off Lone Road to Alaska's Oilfield

Alaska's lone road to North Slope oil field operations remains closed for the third time in two months while emergency crews continue to redirect flooding from an adjacent river,

Pipeline Spill Could Hamper California Oil Projects

Hundreds of barrels of oil that gushed from a ruptured coastal pipeline in scenic California this week could stiffen opposition to large oil projects that companies want to build in the state,

Marine Science

Severe Flooding Cuts Off Lone Road to Alaska's Oilfield

Alaska's lone road to North Slope oil field operations remains closed for the third time in two months while emergency crews continue to redirect flooding from an adjacent river,

Miller is VP - Government and Political Affairs, NOIA

The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) has promoted Megan Bel Miller to Vice President for Government and Political Affairs. She will lead NOIA's Congressional

IMO Adopts Polar Code Environmental Provisions

United Nations' International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted the environmental part of the Polar Code. Hereby, internationally binding regulations on

Government Update

U.S. Senators Urge Obama to Block Arctic Oil Drilling

A group of 18 mostly Democratic U.S. senators on Friday urged the Obama administration to stop Royal Dutch Shell's preparations for oil exploration in the Arctic,

Mayor Garcetti on Ratification of Port Labor Contract

International Longshore and Warehouse Union members have ratified a five-year contract governing pay and work rules at 29 West Coast ports, including those of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

US Funding for Air Emissions/Alternative Energy Projects

The U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) announced that up to $1.3 million in Federal funding is now available through cooperative agreements for projects supporting

Surveyors

Mobil Says Oil Discovery off Guyana is 'Significant'

Unlike almost all its neighbors, Guyana isn’t an oil producer yet. But the energy giant Exxon Mobil recently announced it had discovered “significant” oil off the coast.

Carrier Schedule Reliability Improves in April

Transport consultant Drewry’s Carrier Performance Insight (CPI) for April records 67.6%, up by 4.1 percentage improvement on the previous month in the aggregate

China Denies Kra Canal Deal

China has denied it is involved in work on the Kra canal, defusing hype over a project that purportedly lets ships bypass the Strait of Malacca and Singapore's port, reports Strait Times.

Ocean Observation

Miller is VP - Government and Political Affairs, NOIA

The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) has promoted Megan Bel Miller to Vice President for Government and Political Affairs. She will lead NOIA's Congressional

India-ASEAN Naval Cooperation On

The Indian Navy's indigenous offshore patrol vessel, INS Saryu, will participate in a week-long ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Disaster Relief Exercise (DiREx).   According to an official statement,

Volume Up in Dutch Maritime Technology Sector

The Dutch maritime technology sector has had a good year. Turnover increased by 17%, from EUR 6.4 billion in 2013 to EUR 7.5 billion in 2014. The sector employed 31,680 FTEs, up from 29,361 in 2013.

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Security Navigation Pipelines Pod Propulsion Salvage Ship Repair Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction Sonar Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.0964 sec (10 req/sec)