Heterogeneity and connectivity in the deep sea - comparing the faunal assemblages of polymetallic nodules, bare sediments and seamount sediments in the Pacific Ocean

Master Thesis subject (30 ECTS)
The growing demand for metals and recent developments in technology have stimulated the interest in mining polymetallic nodules in the deep sea. The largest, and hence commercially most attractive, nodule fields lie in the deep Pacific Ocean, between 4000 and 6000 m water depth. Obviously, before such mining operations are undertaken, it is pivotal that we characterize the benthic fauna that is associated with these nodules and that we assess differences in community composition and structure with neighboring habitats (nodule-free sediments and seamounts). These community differences or similarities are important in light of the recolonization of disturbed (mined) areas. Sediment samples and possibly ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) imagery will be collected in sediments bearing polymetallic nodules and those that are nodule-free, and at nearby seamounts, in the Pacific Ocean. Data will be collected on all benthic size groups, i.e. micro-, meio-, macro- and megafauna. The exact focus of the thesis will depend on the interests of the student. Besides the assessment of parameters like standing stock, community composition and diversity from morphological analyses, there is a possibility for the application of molecular techniques. Also, a suite of samples will be gathered for the analysis of environmental variables (grain size, pigments) which may help to explain possible differences in community structure and composition between the different habitat types.
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contact person first name: 
Ellen Pape
Reference Number: RP-34962