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Major impacts of climate change on deep-sea benthic ecosystems

Sweetman, Andrew K. and Thurber, Andrew R. and Smith, Craig R. and Levin, Lisa A. and Mora, Camilo and Wei, Chih-Lin and Gooday, Andrew J. and Jones, Daniel O. B. and Rex, Michael and Yasuhara, Moriaki and Ingels, Jeroen and Ruhl, Henry A. and Frieder, Christina A. and Danovaro, Roberto and Würzberg, Laura and Baco, Amy and Grupe, Benjamin M. and Pasulka, Alexis and Meyer, Kirstin S. and Dunlop, Katherine M. and Henry, Lea-Anne and Roberts, J. Murray (2017) Major impacts of climate change on deep-sea benthic ecosystems. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, 5 . Art. No. 4. ISSN 2325-1026. doi:10.1525/elementa.203.

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The deep sea encompasses the largest ecosystems on Earth. Although poorly known, deep seafloor ecosystems provide services that are vitally important to the entire ocean and biosphere. Rising atmospheric greenhouse gases are bringing about significant changes in the environmental properties of the ocean realm in terms of water column oxygenation, temperature, pH and food supply, with concomitant impacts on deep-sea ecosystems. Projections suggest that abyssal (3000–6000 m) ocean temperatures could increase by 1°C over the next 84 years, while abyssal seafloor habitats under areas of deep-water formation may experience reductions in water column oxygen concentrations by as much as 0.03 mL L^(–1) by 2100. Bathyal depths (200–3000 m) worldwide will undergo the most significant reductions in pH in all oceans by the year 2100 (0.29 to 0.37 pH units). O2concentrations will also decline in the bathyal NE Pacific and Southern Oceans, with losses up to 3.7% or more, especially at intermediate depths. Another important environmental parameter, the flux of particulate organic matter to the seafloor, is likely to decline significantly in most oceans, most notably in the abyssal and bathyal Indian Ocean where it is predicted to decrease by 40–55% by the end of the century. Unfortunately, how these major changes will affect deep-seafloor ecosystems is, in some cases, very poorly understood. In this paper, we provide a detailed overview of the impacts of these changing environmental parameters on deep-seafloor ecosystems that will most likely be seen by 2100 in continental margin, abyssal and polar settings. We also consider how these changes may combine with other anthropogenic stressors (e.g., fishing, mineral mining, oil and gas extraction) to further impact deep-seafloor ecosystems and discuss the possible societal implications.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Levin, Lisa A.0000-0002-2858-8622
Ingels, Jeroen0000-0001-8342-2222
Grupe, Benjamin M.0000-0002-5421-7278
Additional Information:© 2017 The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See Submitted: 16 September 2016; Accepted: 05 January 2017; Published: 23 February 2017. This is a contribution from the Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI), and International Network for scientific investigation of DEEP-sea ecosystems (INDEEP) project that was awarded by the Total Foundation. We thank the Norwegian Research Council for awarding funding to A.K. Sweetman, L.A. Levin, A.R. Thurber and C.R. Smith to run the workshop “CLIDEEP – Workshop to explore the impacts of climate change on deep-sea pelagic and benthic ecosystems” (NFR grant No. 216598) at Friday Harbor Laboratories, University of Washington, where the foundations for this paper were laid. A.K. Sweetman D.O.B. Jones and R. Danovaro acknowledge funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under grant agreement 603418 (MIDAS), and the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement 689518 (MERCES). L.-A. Henry and J.M. Roberts acknowledge funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 678760 (ATLAS): this output reflects only the authors’ views and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein. The authors have no competing interests to declare. Author contributions: Generated research funding: AKS, ART, LAL, CRS. Developed methods and carried out analysis: AKS, ART, LAL, CRS, CM, CLW, DOBJ. Developed and contributed to manuscript writing: All authors. Revised manuscript: AKS.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Total FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Research Council of Norway216598
European Research Council (ERC)603418
European Research Council (ERC)689518
European Research Council (ERC)678760
Subject Keywords:deep-sea, climate change, ecosystem functioning, biodiversity, benthos
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20180201-081111213
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Sweetman AK, Thurber AR, Smith CR, Levin LA, Mora C, Wei C-L, et al.. Major impacts of climate change on deep-sea benthic ecosystems. Elem Sci Anth. 2017;5:4. DOI:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:84616
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:01 Feb 2018 18:14
Last Modified:15 Nov 2021 20:21

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