Deep-sea mining for minerals such as cobalt and manganese has the potential to significantly impact the lives of jellyfish, according to a recent study. The research indicates that the sediment dislodged during mining operations could activate stress responses in jellyfish, potentially causing them substantial harm. Until now, most studies on deep-sea mining have focused on its effects on the seabed, leaving the water column poorly understood. This new investigation provides crucial insight into the potential consequences of such activities on deep-sea ecosystems.
The study, led by a team of marine scientists, involved analyzing deep-sea helmet jellyfish and exposing them to various concentrations of sediment. Findings revealed that jellyfish exhibited signs of acute stress and produced excessive amounts of protective mucus when exposed to higher sediment concentrations. This mucus production requires immense energy, which could be detrimental to jellyfish health and, if sustained, could potentially lead to starvation. The research also highlights the possible impacts on biodiversity and crucial ecosystem functions such as carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling if other deep-sea organisms exhibit similar responses to sediment exposure.