A recent study has provided new insights into the biodiversity of annelids in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), the world’s largest deep-sea mineral exploration region. Annelids, which include worms, are one of the largest groups of macroinvertebrates found in the mud covering the sea floor of the CCZ.
The researchers from the University of Gothenburg and the Natural History Museum London used a combination of traditional morphological approaches and modern molecular techniques to identify over 300 species of annelids in the CCZ. This includes 129 species across 22 annelid families, many of which are considered to be new to science.
Understanding the biodiversity of the CCZ is important for informing the protection of these unique ecosystems, especially as commercial deep-sea mining operations in the area may be imminent. Taxonomy, the classification of organisms, is crucial for this understanding. Unfortunately, soft-bodied annelids are often damaged during collection, making traditional morphological approaches limited. Therefore, DNA techniques are increasingly being used to complement morphological identification.
The researchers have made a significant effort to publish and share their annelid data to benefit the wider scientific community and stakeholders involved in decision-making about deep-sea mining. Their checklist of CCZ annelids, although still partial, is an important step towards creating field guides for the area’s wildlife.
As the International Seabed Authority considers mining applications for the CCZ, the use of biological data for environmental management has become more crucial than ever. This study contributes to closing the knowledge gap about the biodiversity of the CCZ and highlights the need for further research and protection measures in these unique deep-sea habitats.
“Insights into the biodiversity of annelids in the world’s largest deep-sea mineral exploration region.” Phys.org. Retrieved from [source].
Helena Wiklund et al. “Checklist of newly-vouchered annelid taxa from the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, central Pacific Ocean, based on morphology and genetic delimitation.” Biodiversity Data Journal (2023). DOI: 10.3897/BDJ.11.e86921.