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 August 2014 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Environmental

Cove Point LNG Export Facility Gets US FERC Approval

U.S. federal regulators on Monday approved construction of Dominion Resources Inc's liquefied natural gas export project in Cove Point, Maryland. Cove Point is the fourth U.

Shipping's GHG Emissions Down

The total Green House Gas (GHG) emissions from global maritime transport are estimated to have been over 20% lower in 2012 than in 2007, according to "London Matters

OC Selects Siemens Blue Drive PLUSC Propulsion Solution

Siemens Blue Drive PLUSC Low Voltage Propulsion Solution providing reliability, Safety, increased fuel efficiency, reduced greenhouse gas emissions (Methane, NOX

Marine Science

Great Lakes Restoration Plan Announced

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) informs that Administrator Gina McCarthy has released a new Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Action Plan that

Seakeeper Launches 5 New Models

Seakeeper proudly introduces five new models, offering stability and roll reduction for vessels 30’ and larger! The product range now includes the Seakeeper 5, 9,

New HTML5 Version of Insight Genesis

Insight Genesis™,the custom map-generation tool for Lowrance, Simrad NS and B&G Zeus series chartplotters,announced today the latest update to its premium map-making

Government Update

Cove Point LNG Export Facility Gets US FERC Approval

U.S. federal regulators on Monday approved construction of Dominion Resources Inc's liquefied natural gas export project in Cove Point, Maryland. Cove Point is the fourth U.

Port Firm Fined £650,000 for Health, Safety Breach

A port operator has today (Monday 29 September) pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches, following the deaths of three crew members of a tug which capsized on the River Clyde in 2007.

IRPT, Community College MoA on Maritime Training

The Inland Rivers, Ports and Terminals (IRPT) Trade Association announced today that it has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Lewis & Clark Community

Surveyors

Ocean Installer Awarded New Contract

Ocean Installer has been awarded a contract for SURF support work in Brazil for Saipem. The contract which will see the Normand Clipper in Brazil for 8 months is valued at circa USD 50 million,

ABS Awarded DoD Classification Contract Modification

The US Department of Defense informs that the American Bureau of Shipping, Houston, Texas, is being issued an $8,500,000 modification under a previously awarded

NOAA Orders Newbuild Navigation Response Boats

NOAA today announced that Lake Assault Boats of Superior, Wisconsin, will build two small vessels for the Office of Coast Survey's navigation response program,

Unmanned Vehicles

Northrop Grumman Advances Unmanned Maritime Capabilities

Innovative unmanned systems program moves forward to Phase II.   Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) is developing new, advanced unmanned systems to support

Boeing, Liquid Robotics Enter Maritime Surveillance Partnership

Boeing and Liquid Robotics signed a global, multiyear teaming agreement for collaboration on product development, maritime services and operational deployments.

DSS Secures HOS Jones Act MPSV for Gulf ROV Work

Delta SubSea Secures U.S.-Flagged DP-2 IMR/Construction Support Vessel for Deepwater ROV Operations in the GoM. Delta SubSea, LLC (DSS) has entered into an agreement

Ocean Observation

USCG Warns Boaters of Cold Water Despite Warm Air

The Coast Guard 9th District is warning Great Lakes boaters that falling water temperatures pose safety risks even as air temperatures stay warm. The National

Arctic Bay is a Strait Proves Research Ship

The crew of the Admiral Vladimirsky research vessel during the second phase of its voyage has made a number of geographical and scientific discoveries in the Arctic,

ONR Funds UW Oceanographic R/V Refit Contract

The US Department of Defense informs that the University of Washington (UW), Seattle, Washington, is being awarded a $12,776,050 cost reimbursement contract for

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Contracts Maritime Security Maritime Standards Offshore Oil Pod Propulsion Port Authority Salvage Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction Sonar
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | terms and conditions | 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: 0.0921 sec (11 req/sec)