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January 17, 2013

Seamounts: biodiversity hotspots deep beneath the waves



If you follow our work, you may have picked up on the fact that we have a thing for seamounts – we’ll admit it, it’s a bit of an obsession.

What is it about seamounts that tickles our fancy?

High biodiversity? Check

Marine mammals and top predators? Check

Productive ecosystems that include essential/sensitive habitats? Check and check.

What’s baffling is actually how little we know about deep sea areas. It’s understandable, as the technology needed to research and study these areas has only recently become widespread enough, but the fact is, even today, marine protected areas tend to be focused closer to the coast. Sadly, no one really knows about seamounts, and as such, their rich biodiversity remains hidden. 

That is why we’ve made it our mission to research these hotspots as much as possible during our at-sea expeditions. A couple of years ago, we explored the Ibiza channel, which is home to several seamounts such as the Nao Mound, the Morrot de Formentera and Xàbia seamount. The channel is deep, reaching almost 300 feet, and lies between the Balearic Islands and the Iberian Peninsula.

One of the really cool things about this channel is that fin whales traverse it to reach the Pelagos sanctuary for marine mammals (a vast area between France and Italy). We were the first to get video and images of these depths and have recently begun analyzing all the information we obtained. We put together some of the pictures we captured in our flickr album here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oceanaeurope/sets/72157632516398249/show/

The analysis of these images is being done with the support of Fundación Biodiversidad, and we’ll be coming out with some fascinating video material in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!