The ocean, a great unknown
The ocean is a great unknown. This is one of the seven principles of Ocean Literacy and it is quite evident if we consider that approximately 95% of it is still unexplored.
This lack of knowledge, while opening up a wide range of possibilities and opportunities for new discoveries, should also make us aware of our own ignorance: we know so little about so many issues regarding the ocean that any interaction with it should always be preceded by caution.
The consequences derived from human activities in a marine environment can be difficult to foresee and understand, especially in the medium and long term. This fact has been verified in a recently published study, focused on evaluating the effects of exploiting mining resources on the seafloor. This is an activity in which much hope has been placed for the future, despite not having much knowledge about the recovery capacity of the seabed after facing the resulting impacts. The study consisted on revisiting an area located on the coast of Peru, where in 1989 a study was carried out simulating the impact caused by a mining operation on a seafloor located at more than 4,000 meters deep. The idea of the study was to compare this area with other undisturbed areas, to analyze its evolution over time.
The results obtained have shown that after 26 years (the area was visited again in 2015, despite the recent publication of the study), the impacts on the seabed could still be seen. Furthermore, with the analysis of sediment samples it has been verified that the populations of the microbial communities were still affected, being 30% lower than other communities found in undisturbed areas. With these results it has been estimated that the biogeochemical functions of these communities could take more than 50 years to fully recover.
This study is a simple example of how an activity in the marine environment may have consequences that are difficult to predict in the long term. For this reason, it is essential that decisions regarding certain activities are made when the scientific knowledge needed to make them is available.
We must bear in mind that, although ignorance may be daring, it is not usually a good advisor… And in the ocean we are still quite ignorant, at least 95% ignorant.
You can consult here the article in which the mentioned study is discussed in the following link, from which you can access the recently published scientific article itself.