New Technologies for Environmental Impact Assessments in the Deep Sea
Water samples collected concurrently with image data for ground truthing
The Issue: Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) depend on our ability to determine whether variability in biological community compositions, organism abundances, distributions, sizes, and reproductive status are within naturally occurring levels or have occurred as the result of anthropogenic disturbances. For disturbances that are likely to cause local extinctions, such as some deep-sea mining scenarios, larval supply, and their ability to recruit to and survive in the altered habitat will govern the recovery potential at any given site. The acquisition of such baseline data should ideally be done in a minimally intrusive fashion so as not to impact the environment because of such baseline surveys – as such, the identification and dissemination of new technologies for investigating the deep sea is critical. Furthermore, protocols for surveys, subsequent analysis and data sharing should be standardized to enable comparisons of datasets obtained at different sites, at different times and by different people.
The Working Group: This DOSI working group consisting of 40 members, aims to identify and disseminate technologies that would enable the above goals to be met.
- Standardisation: work continues of the development of an ISO standard for Marine environment impact assessment (MEIA) – performance specifications for in situ image-based surveys in deep seafloor environments.
- New technologies:
- Work continues the development of software to bridge the gap between high quality video data collected in situ and currently available cloud-based image annotation tools, and on easily implementable protocols for meta-barcoding analyses of deep sea meiofauna. See Past Activities below for related fieldwork.
- Work is ongoing to develop tools for the quantification of microplastics in sediments
- A sub-group of DOSI members, led by Dr Amy Baco from Florida State University, are working on: “A community consensus on designating Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) from imagery”. Under UNGA resolution 61/105, management of fisheries in areas beyond national jurisdiction requires identification of vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs). Criteria to designate a VME include uniqueness, functional significance, fragility, structural complexity, and certain life history traits. Currently the only quantitative way to assess VME locations is to use fisheries trawl bycatch data. Besides potentially destroying the VME in gathering these data and method caveats, the threshold for designating a VME from trawls varies among FAO regions. Imagery data from scientific surveys is a less destructive approach, however there currently is not a framework for designating VMEs from images. Thus, the goal of this project is to bring together a large international team to establish first pass consensus guidelines across regions for designating VMEs from images.