Protecting the ocean means lots of rigorous, mundane science.

Bathymodiolus manusensis. Photo courtesy Nautilus Minerals.

I have a new paper out today: Population structure of Bathymodiolus manusensis, a deep-sea hydrothermal vent-dependent mussel from Manus Basin, Papua New Guinea.

We sampled two sites in Papua New Guinea where these deep-sea mussels aggregate and looked at their genes to determine if there was any population structure across this relatively small spatial scale (~40 km). We found one homogeneous population. We also looked at representatives from other ocean basins and determined that mussel populations within Manus Basin are younger than those in neighboring basins. This is a pattern we’ve observed in several other studies as well.

This is not, by any stretch, a ground-breaking, paradigm-shifting study. But studies like this, baseline, foundation-building studies, are absolutely essential for conservation biology.

Two-and-a-half kilometers from one of our sites lies Solwara 1. In case you haven’t been paying attention to this website, Solwara 1 is slated to become the first deep-sea hydrothermal vent mine in history, and the success or failure of Solwara 1 will herald a new era in deep-sea exploitation.

Nautilus Minerals Seafloor Production Tools.

Over almost a decade we’ve been slowly painting a picture of ecology, biodiversity, distribution, and resilience at Solwara 1 and surrounding hydrothermal vents sites. What we’ve learned is what we’ve always suspected: though there are broad, general patterns in the deep sea, every hydrothermal vent system is unique; our understanding of these iconic ecosystems remains limited; and, while we can begin to make predictions about how large scale mining will impact hydrothermal vents communities, there are still some substantial knowledge gaps in our understanding of seafloor processes. This new paper is another brush stroke in that still-wet painting.

For a broader look at our work in Papua New Guinea, see the rest of our papers:

And see some of our broader papers discussing deep-sea mining in Papua New Guinea and beyond: