Ecological aspects of deep-sea mining | JPI OCEANS

Ecological aspects of deep-sea mining

Joint Action Facts
Action period: February 2013
Funding: € 13,200,000
Strategic area:
  • Exploring the Deep-Sea
Type of action:
  • Accessing or sharing of marine infrastructures
  • Procedures or agreements for transnational access and sharing of infrastructures
Lead countries:
  • Germany
More Information
Secretariat Contact:

John Hanus


Tel. +32 (0) 2 733 89 48


The JPI Oceans action 'Ecological aspects of deep-sea mining' aims at assessing the long-term impacts of polymetallic nodule mining on the deep-sea environment. Core of the action is the research project ‘MiningImpact’ which conducted three marine research campaigns in 2015 on the RV Sonne visiting several license areas and two Areas of Particular Environmental Interest (APEIs) in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) as well as the DISCOL benthic impact experiment in the Peru Basin.


Jointly analyse the long-term ecological consequences of deep-sea polymetallic nodule mining to provide the knowledge base and inform the development of the international regulation regime of deep sea mining activities by: 
  • Predicting the ecological, biogeochemical and hydrodynamic consequences of a mining impact. 
  • Testing a range of modern rapid assessment methods and monitoring techniques for defining the ecosystem status. 
  • Communicating the results to stakeholders and policymakers. 
  • Conducting a comparative baseline study across different deep-sea environments (e.g. trophic states and seamounts)


The action and its research project 'MiningImpact' improved the understanding of deep-sea ecosystems and the impact of mining thereon. The project has not only attracted interest from the the G7 Science Ministers in their Communiqué from October 2015, but is also delivering input into the development of the international Mining Code (set of regulations for the exploitation of polymetallic nodules in the deep seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction), which the International Seabed Authority is in the process of negotiating. At the 22nd Session of the Authority in July 2016, MiningImpact presented these results in order to ensure that the international deep sea mining regime is built on a solid scientific basis and the best available knowledge.

In general, the cost-effective joint use of research infrastructure has facilitated the development of a common understanding and integration of national research activities around a common scientific objective. It has also enabled more effective collective European contributions to international policy-making.

Scientists involved in the project also published the results from the recent research campaign in Nature's Scientific Reports, demonstrating that polymetallic nodule fields are hotspots of abundance and diversity for a highly vulnerable abyssal fauna. 

The scientific findings of the project were:
  • Nodule ecosystems support a highly diverse fauna of sessile and mobile species.
  • Faunal communities & environmental parameters show a high variability even on a very local spatial scale.
  • Benthic fauna communities differ significantly between seamounts and nodule habitats.
  • Loss of seafloor integrity by nodule and sediment removal generally reduces population densities and ecosystem functions. Biogeochemical remineralization processes and the productivity of the benthic community are both impacted by nodule removal.
  • Disturbance impacts on nodule ecosystems last for many decades, affect numerous ecosystem compartments and functions


More details can be found on the final results overview of the project. 


Global interest in the exploration and exploitation of deep-sea minerals is on the rise. Enabled by technological advances and driven by geopolitical, economic and scientific motivations, public and private alike are increasingly venturing to the edges of the continental shelves and into areas beyond national jurisdiction in search of new resources. However, deep-sea ecosystems and the potential effects of mining activities on them are poorly understood. Therefore, member countries of JPI Oceans decided to launch a joint research activity in the field.
The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) provided 118 days of ship time for onsite research in the Pacific on the RV SONNE. Over the course of three cruises, researchers from 11 countries mapped habitats, studied deep sea ecosystems and investigated their functioning in addition to predicting and identifying the environmental implications of nodule and sediment removal, sediment plume dispersion and re-deposition caused by mining activities. The project started in January 2015 and ran for 36 months with an overall budget of approximately €9.5m. 
Publications joint actions

Boetius, A. and Haeckel, M. Mind the seafloor, Science; DOI 10.1126/science.aap7301 (2018)

Brown, A., et al. A comparative experimental approach to ecotoxicology in shallow-water and deep-sea holothurians suggests similar behavioural responses, Aquatic Toxicology; DOI 10.1016/j.aquatox.2017.06.028 (2017)

Dumke, I., et al. First hyperspectral imaging survey of the deep seafloor: high-resolution mapping of manganese nodules. Remote Sensing of Environment; DOI 10.1016/j.rse.2018.02.024 (2018).

Peukert, A., et al. Understanding Mn-nodule distribution and evaluation of related deep-sea mining impacts using AUV-based hydroacoustic and optical data, Biogeosciences (BG); DOI 10.5194/bg-15-2525-2018. (2018)

Purser, A., Marcon, Y., Hoving, H. J. T., Vecchione, M., Piatkowski, U., Eason, D., Bluhm, H. and Boetius, A. (2016) Association of deep-sea incirrate octopods with manganese crusts and nodule fields in the Pacific Ocean Current Biology, 26 (24). R1268-R1269. DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2016.10.052 

Schoening, T., et al. Compact-Morphology-based poly-metallic Nodule Delineation, Scientific Reports; DOI 10.1038/s41598-017-13335-x (2017)

Schoening, T., et al. Fully automated image segmentation for benthic resource assessment of poly-metallic nodules, Methods in Oceanography; DOI 10.1016/j.mio.2016.04.002 (2016)

Schoening, T., et al. RecoMIA - Recommendations for Marine Image Annotation: Lessons Learned and Future Directions, Frontiers in Marine Science; DOI 10.3389/fmars.2016.00059 (2016)

Stratmann, T., et al. Has Phytodetritus Processing by an Abyssal Soft-Sediment Community Recovered 26 Years after an Experimental Disturbance?, Frontiers in Marine Science; DOI 10.3389/fmars.2018.00059 (2018)

Vanreusel, A., Hilario, A., Ribeiro, P. A., Menot, L. and Arbizu, P. M. (2016) Threatened by mining, polymetallic nodules are required to preserve abyssal epifauna Scientific Reports, 6 (26808). DOI 10.1038/srep26808 

Participating countries


Federal Public Planning Service Science Policy (BELSPO)

Contact: David Cox


Research Centre Juelich (JÜLICH)

Contact: Joachim Harms


French Research Institute for Exploration of the Sea (Ifremer)

Contact: Gilles Lericolais


Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

Contact: Caron Montgomery


National Research Council (CNR)

Contact: Emilio Fortunato Campana


Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)

Contact: Josef F. Stuefer


Research Council of Norway (RCN)

Contact: Kristin E. Thorud


Polish Academy of Sciences; Institute of Hydroengineering (IBW PAN)

Contact: Grzegorz Różyński


Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT)

Contact: Rita Silva


National Authority for Scientific Research, Directorate for European Integration and International Cooperation

Contact: Viorel Vulturescu


Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS)

Contact: Lisa Almesjö

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