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Hydrothermal vents, popularly known as black smokers, are the latest discovery in the scientific world. Described as a unique ecosystem, the black smokers continually attract researchers and explorers especially because of their mineral-rich environment. Moreover, black smokers harbor oceanic organisms like bacteria, worms, crabs, barnacles, and other sea creatures that are interdependent to each other.
What are the dangers or benefits of continuous exploitation of the ecosystem? Should the oceanographic community fight for the conservation of the unique ecosystem? The following text explores the impact of the exploitation of black smokers highlighting the importance of conservation.
Impact of exploration/research of the hydrothermal vents
Constant exploration of a natural ecosystem poses lethal effects on biodiversity. The extinction and loss of species put the stability of the ecosystem at risk. Some scientists collect the organisms living in the hydrothermal vents for research purposes. However, the species rarely survive outsides their natural habitat.
For instance, deeps sea exploration requires the use of submarines, which subsequently destroy the different species living in the environment. Sometimes the heavy machines used in exploration crush/kill the organism destroying their homes (Garrison, 2009, p. 20).
Prawns, limpets, crabs, worms, and other bacteria are some of the organisms, which live in hydrothermal vents but, habitat fragmentation due to exploitation prevents the organisms from freely accessing their home. Unfortunately, some explorers’ harvest the animals, especially crabs and prawns, for food and through killing them, the explorers also reduce their population (Tunnicliffe, 1991, p. 393).
Consequently, the organisms may become extinct if the oceanographic community does not regulate the harvesting. Besides disturbing the peace of the organisms in the ecosystem, there is environmental pollution in the event of exploration. The tools, machines, and submarines used to research or navigate the hydrothermal vents lead to water and sound pollution.
Consequently, some animals like the prawns, crabs, and limpets may either migrate or die (Tunnicliffe, 1991, p. 330). In the case of migration, invasive species lead to unstable relationships in the neighboring ecosystem. Therefore, the issues above may lead to the extinction of the unique ecosystem.
Impact of mineral exploitation
The presence of minerals in the hydrothermal vents also attracts geologists from different corners of the world. Sulfur and its other derivatives are the common minerals found at the floor of the sea near the black chimneys. Most of the unique fauna found in the hydrothermal vents depends on the minerals for survival.
Therefore, the collection and utilization of the minerals pose a danger to the fauna in the ecosystem because besides disturbing the organisms in the habitat others will either migrate or die (Van & Lee, 200, p.50). To keep the existence of the unique ecosystems oceanographic should advocate for conservation.
Conservation not only protects but also restores the ecosystems in case of earlier destruction. Through conservation, there will be the protection of endangered species like crabs and prawns. Furthermore, the unknown species will also survive without facing the dangers of extinction due to death. If people control the human population growth and decide to use sustainable technology, then there will be both protection and maintenance of hydrothermal vents.
In summary, the hydrothermal vent is a unique ecosystem that not only the oceanographic community but also the whole world should strive to protect. Although minerals and the organisms attract both researchers and explorers, the exploitation does more harm than good to the environment. Besides losing the organisms and minerals, there is also water pollution to the other organism in the oceans especially from oil spillage, metal deposits, and smoke, which may lead to their death.
Garrison, T. (2009). Essentials of Oceanography. Brooks: Cole Publishing
Tunnicliffe, V. (1991). The Biology of Hydrothermal Vents: Ecology and Evolution. Oceanography and Marine Biology an Annual Review 29, 319–408.
Van, D. & Lee, C. (2000). The Ecology of Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vents. Princeton University Press.