Summary

It is certain that deep-sea hydrothermal vent ecosystems support vast communities of life, that exhibit an array of unique adaptations to cope in their dynamic environment and their discovery has altered understandings of  how life on Earth, and ‘potentially other planets’, functions (Van Dover 2000, 2010). However, even at the more studied-sites, knowledge of ecosystem biodiversity and composition is incomplete (Van Dover 2010; Van Dover et al. 2002). As more vent-systems are explored, it is expected that many more new species will be discovered (Van Dover 2010; Van Dover et al. 2002).

A factor that needs further investigation is the distribution of hydrothermal vents on a global scale (Van Dover et al. 2002); and how organisms disperse through the oceanic-environment, to new vent systems, perhaps hundreds of kilometres away. What the larval-adaptations of organisms are, that allow for dispersal and re-colonisation of new vent systems is still debateable (Baker & German 2004; Pradillon & Gaill 2009; Van Dover et al. 2002).

The possible large-scale implications and consequences of mining metal-sulphides remains unknown. Therefore, ecosystem-regulation and research is needed in order to help preserve hydrothermal-vent habitats and to better understand their functioning, to determine what the implications of altering their ecosystems will entail (Van Dover 2010).

It is clear that there is still very much to learn about this environment and its associated communities. Hydrothermal vent ecosystem-functioning is a dynamic and evolving area of scientific-research, with new discoveries to be made; therefore, it is of great scientific importance to protect this environment – one of the last pristine habitats on the Earth (Craig 2010; Van Dover 2010).

As human activity further alters the deep sea, will its species adapt or perish?’ (Craig 2010).

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