Pipeline installation boosts diversity of seabed animals • Earth.com
As part of a collaboration between BP Angola and deep-sea researchers, a wildlife survey was carried out near pipelines being installed off the coast of West Africa.
“We have a long-standing collaboration with BP in Angola to use the survey imagery equipment for science,” explained study co-author Andrew Gates of the National Center for Oceanography.
Research shows that there was an immediate increase in animal life near where the pipes were installed.
“In a short time, the installation of a pipeline resulted in an increase in the abundance and diversity of marine life in most areas,” said study co-author Daniel Jones. “We think it might be related to the pipeline providing shelter and trapping organic matter that the animals feed on.”
“It was also surprising to see the huge amount of trash, which consisted of plastic bags, bottles and aluminum cans, as this is a remote area ranging from 700 to 1,400 meters deep. “
The footage was collected using a remotely operated vehicle, a type of submarine that’s about the size of a car and controlled by a cable connecting to a ship above.
“We realized as soon as we saw the footage that this would allow us to explore how marine life changed after a pipeline was introduced. Doing this kind of survey is very difficult and expensive, so we were delighted to be able to use the images to better understand deep sea biology. This adds real value to the video footage originally collected to inspect the pipeline.”
Scientists believe that some of the creatures captured on film may be new species to science, but it’s usually impossible to identify deep-sea animal species by video. Scientists hope to return soon to collect specimens.
“In conclusion, this study demonstrates that the installation of a pipeline can cause considerable changes in the fauna of certain areas of the continental slope”, write the researchers. “These changes are very depth dependent and likely depend on both the nature of the community and the potential for the pipeline to trap organic matter.”
“It is likely that the results presented here are only an early stage in a succession of ecological changes resulting from the installation of a deep-sea pipeline, with later stages largely unknown.”
The study is published in the journal Marine Science Frontiers.
By Zach Fitzner, Terre.com Personal editor