Impacts of anthropogenic disturbances at deep-sea hydrothermal vent ecosystems: a review.
Deep-sea hydrothermal-vent ecosystems have stimulated decades of scientific research and hold promise of mineral and genetic resources that also serve societal needs. Some endemic taxa thrive only in vent environments, and vent-associated organisms are adapted to a variety of natural disturbances, from tidal variations to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In this paper, physicochemical and biological impacts of a range of human activities at vents are considered. Mining is currently the only anthropogenic activity projected to have a major impact on vent ecosystems, albeit at a local scale, based on our current understanding of ecological responses to disturbance. Natural recovery from a single mining event depends on immigration and larval recruitment and colonization; understanding processes and dynamics influencing life-history stages may be a key to effective minimization and mitigation of mining impacts. Cumulative impacts on benthic communities of several mining projects in a single region, without proper management, include possible species extinctions and shifts in community structure and function.
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