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Bundesamt für Naturschutz

BfN Schriften 79 - Deep Sea Genetic Resources in the Context of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

It is only in the last few decades that the importance of the enormous area of open ocean beyond the 200 mile limit has been recognised, not only due to its role in the regulation of global climate but also because of its natural resources. In the deep-sea an even greater amount of species may be found than in all the other environments of the Earth together.1 The unsuspected high diversity of the deep-sea floor2 defeated the theory of a desert-like environment. This was supported by the overwhelming wealth of different habitats like seamounts, deep-sea trenches, reef-forming corals, submarine canyons, cold seeps and pockmarks. Especially the discovery of deep-sea hydrothermal vents and their unique biological communities was one of the most important findings in biological science in the latter half of the 20th century.
This text therefore will focus on these deep-sea habitats. But some suggestions may be valuable for other habitats as well.
Horst Korn, Susanne Friedrich and Ute Feit
Federal Agency for Nature Conservation
Year of publication


Unusual symbioses between invertebrates and chemolithautotrophic bacteria are producing concentrations
of biomass at hydrothermal vent sites that is similar to the most productive ecosystems on Earth. The
existence of chemoautotrophic and hyperthermophilic microbes in the hydrothermal waters has promoted
new theories of the origin of life on Earth. The unbelievable high number of over 500 new animal species
and the high endemism rate at vents has provided a great impetus to marine conservation measures
on the high seas. Biodiversity as a term which can be used on all levels of biological organisation, ranging
from a measure of the genetic variability of one population to the diversity of major ecosystem-types . In
recent years long-term and large-scale researches of the deep-sea environment has begun and the commercial
sector is now able to operate in water depths of at least 2,000 m. So far exploitation is concentrated
in areas within national jurisdiction.

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