The deep ocean makes up 95% of habitable Earth, yet only 0.0001% has been explored. The Guardian joined a mission off Bermuda that is looking to unlock the secrets of the deep. Via TheGuardian
byOliver Milman (TheGuardian) The largest migration on Earth is very rarely seen by human eyes, yet it happens every day. Billions of marine creatures ascend from as far as 2km below the surface of the water to the upper reaches of the ocean at night, only to then float back down once the sun rises.
This huge movement of organisms – ranging from tiny cockatoo squids to microscopic crustaceans, shifting for food or favourable temperatures – was little known to science until relatively recently.
In fact, almost all of the deep ocean, which represents 95% of the living space on the planet, remains inscrutable, despite the key role it plays in supporting life on Earth, such as regulating the air we breathe. Scientists are only now starting to overturn this ignorance, at a time when this unknown world is being subjected to rising temperatures, ocean acidification and the strewn waste expelled by humans.
“The deeper we go, the less we know,” said Nick Schizas, a marine biologist at the University of Puerto Rico. “The majority of habitat of Earth is the deeper areas of the ocean. Yet we know so little about it.”
Schizas is part of a new research mission that will, for the first time, provide a comprehensive health check of the deep oceans that future changes will be measured against. The consortium of scientists and divers, led by Nekton, is backed by XL Catlin, which has already funded a global analysis of shallow water coral reefs. The new mission is looking far deeper – onwards of 150m down, further than most research that is restricted by the limits of scuba divers.
Yet only an estimated 0.0001% of the deep ocean has been explored. The Nekton researchers are discovering a whole web of life that could be unknown to science as they attempt to broaden this knowledge. The Guardian joined the mission vessel Baseline Explorer in its survey off the coast of Bermuda, where various corals, sponges and sea slugs have been hauled up from the deep.
“Every time we look in the deep sea, we find a lot of new species,” said Alex Rogers, an Oxford University biologist who has previously found a new species of lobster in the deep Indian Ocean and huge hydrothermal vents off Antarctica.
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.