Global Seamounts Project
Implications for Resource Conservation and Policy Development
David Vousden, PhD
Professor of Ocean Governance, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
Ben Fitzpatrick, PhD
Director, Oceanwise, Australia, Perth, Australia
The Global Seamounts Project will document a wide range of biophysical parameters on a series of seamounts across the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and will develop new ecosystem modeling tools for understanding complex, synergistic behavioral responses to environmental perturbations from climate change and human impacts. This extensive and ambitious effort will ultimately help to inform decisions about sustainable resource management and conservation at a regional level and will enable more effective international policy development initiatives.
These contributions will also directly support the objectives of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG 14 – Life Under Water, toward a sustainable future for the oceans – one that can be grounded by the best scientific observation and advice.
The potential for application of new knowledge generated by the Global Seamounts Project, linked to the principal investigative components of the project, include the following:
Biodiversity and trophic structure
Establishing population, biodiversity and ecosystem baselines of target and non-target fish species within these important deep-water habitats will contribute to the development of the international treaty for Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction and to formulation of regional high seas fishing agreements, such as the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement.
Mapping the patterns and extent of connectivity will assist the international community in understanding the influence these connections have on productivity within neighboring Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), toward appropriate scaling of management approaches under the treaty for Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction and for parallel national policies.
Understanding the mutual influence between seamount ecosystems and surrounding abyssal ecosystems will assist in the delineation of zones of influence, spatial planning, and resource management.
Habitat disturbance and recovery dynamics
Disturbance patterns from fishing activities can help inform regulation of seabed disturbance by fishing gear and resource extraction, including through regional fishing agreements such as the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Convention.
New ecosystem models
New computational models for seamount ecosystems developed by the project will enable predictive ecosystem behaviors for a combination of structural and environmental variables for estimating the impact of potential future scenarios. This will be a crucial tool for researchers and policy makers in efforts to better manage and conserve seamount ecosystems.