The abyssal plain is a challenging environment to live made even more difficult by anthropogenic activities. Deep-sea echinoderms that face extremes of temperature, pressure and darkness have developed a wide diversity of movement, feeding and reproductive methods to cope with challenges posed with living in one of the most extreme marine environment. However our current knowledge of the deep-sea environment and ecology is greatly limited by lack of ability to directly study the environment due to constraints of pressure.

Because productivity, biomass and physical energy input into the deep-sea environment is so low there is little background change. However because of the relative stability of the deep sea environment, its sensitivity to human impacts will be heavily felt by the environment and the associated high species diversity.

The protection of this unique environment will depend heavily on future insights and understanding of complete benthic communities rather than ‘snapshot’ representation that is currently available. Continued exploitation of deep sea resources such as manganese nodule mining without such understanding of faunal assemblages and community structure will lead to the destruction and loss of deep-sea biodiversity (Figure 8).

Figure 8. An example of a unique deep-sea holothurian which is threatened by anthropogenic induced changes to the deep-sea environment (URL1)

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