The application of predictive modelling to marine spatial planning associated with deep-sea mining

Title: The application of predictive modelling to marine spatial planning associated with deep-sea mining

Funder and duration: UK Seabed Resources Ltd (£100,000) 2015 - 2019

Lead partner: University of Plymouth

Location: United Kingdom

University of Plymouth staff: Dr Kerry Howell (PI), Professor Martin Attrill, Kirsty McQuaid

Deep-sea mining is an emerging industry targeting mineral rich deposits in the deep sea in response to the demands of global growth and modern technologies. The extractive operations proposed are potentially harmful to the deep-sea, and effective management is essential to ensure that this environment is adequately protected. In many cases, the areas targeted for mining are large and data-poor, hampering the development of environmental management and conservation strategies. This project investigates the use of predictive habitat mapping as a tool to overcome these issues, and support spatial planning associated with deep-sea mining. Predictive mapping methods have been applied extensively in shallow water systems, and more recently in deep water, to inform conservation planning and environmental management.

We investigate the application of these methods to polymetallic nodule fields in the tropical Pacific, testing the validity of predictions and comparing the accuracy and performance of models at different spatial scales using top-down and bottom-up approaches. Importantly, this work determines whether broad scale physical habitat maps reflect variation in biological communities. By addressing these key questions, we move closer to developing appropriate tools to support spatial planning in the vast, data-poor areas associated with deep-sea mining.

<p>A polymetallic nodule. Image: Kirsty McQuaid<br></p>
A polymetallic nodule. Image: Kirsty McQuaid
<p>Nodule province megafauna. Image: Lockheed Martin <br></p>
Nodule province megafauna. Image: Lockheed Martin
<p>Nodule province megafauna. Image: Lockheed Martin <br></p>
Nodule province megafauna. Image: Lockheed Martin

“This research is important for the future conservation and management of the deep sea and high seas. We are increasingly using the deep sea to provide food and raw materials to support the growing global population. If society decides that deep-sea mining should go ahead, it is critical that we ensure effective and long-lasting protection of marine species and habitats within no mining zones. Our work is aimed at providing reliable maps to support decisions about where we do and don’t mine”

Dr Kerry Howell