Deep Sea Ecosystems
We are only now beginning to understand the importance of deep sea ecosystems, from hydrothermal vents that mitigate climate change, to whale-falls that provide a large carbon sink.
Life at Cold Seeps
Cold seeps are areas of the ocean floor where hydrogen sulphide, methane, and other hydrocarbon-rich seepage occurs. Through a number of process, the chemicals support a biome of highly specialised creatures that live around these cold seeps.
The Open Ocean
The open ocean is an entirely different world to the benthic zone of the sea floor. The endless blue stretches away in all directions, while the black abyss hangs gaping below. Currents are stronger here. There is no shelter to be found, and food is hard to come by.
The Deep Sea Floor
Deep sea life must choose whether to live on the bottom at the benthic zone, or to brave the expansive open ocean of the pelagic midwater zone. These two groups of organisms could not be more different, but which is a more effective way of life?
Deep Sea Coral Reefs represent areas of astounding biodiversity. Lush cold water coral and sponge gardens thrive in the icy waters. An expanse of colourful coral structures blooming out of the sea floor, providing important habitats for deep-dwelling life.
Deep Sea Food Web
The exact nature of the deep sea food web is still not fully understood, but advancements in technology and research in recent years have granted us a greater understanding of how these separate settlements of life are interconnected as one. Let’s take a closer look at the food web of the deep sea.
Brine Pools in the deep sea appear to be biological dead-zones in the ocean, and yet an astounding abundance of ocean life can be found lining the shores of these toxic lakes. Mussels, hagfish, crabs and even sharks frequent these isolated hotspots to hunt.
Occasionally, a whale carcass will sink to the seabed, where it will support a complex biological community for up to 50 years. Deep sea creatures gather here to make the most of the concentrated store of nutrients, from giant sharks to tiny but fascinating bacteria.
In the deep sea, no energy is produced by photosynthesis. Instead, chemosynthetic bacteria have adapted to convert the chemicals expelled by deep sea vents into the energy needed for life to flourish.