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First-ever study describes deep-sea animal communities around a sunken shipping container
Date:5/8/2014

ty of seafloor animals was lower near the container.

This collaborative research project has already helped government agencies in formulating standards for how containers are weighed, stacked, and lashed down. It has also spurred interest from both governmental agencies and the shipping industry in finding a way to track the number of containers lost at sea each year. DeVogelaere noted, "The fact that our research was mentioned by the U.S. Coast Guard in the background material for a proposed lashing rule shows that this work has clear societal value."

During future dives to the container, the researchers hope to find out whether more diverse animal communities will develop over time, or if some toxic material is allowing only certain hardy animals to colonize the container. They are also designing a study to compare the effects of different types of container coatings on colonization by deep-sea animals.

This particular container held a shipment of car tires. Other containers are used to transport more acutely toxic materials, such as batteries, pesticides, and raw chemicals. These substances would only add to the possible effects of a sunken container.

Given the slow rate at which the sunken container is corroding, and evidence from deep-sea shipwrecks such as the Titanic, the researchers hypothesize that lost containers may take hundreds of years to fully degrade in the deep sea. This suggests that each year thousands of shipping containers are accumulating on the deep seafloor, especially along busy shipping routes.

Taylor said, "We have only begun to characterize the potential long-term impacts of a single container on a deep-sea community. Although the effects of one container may seem small, the thousands of shipping containers lost on the seafloor each year could eventually become a significant source of pollution for deep-sea ecosystems."


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Contact: Kim Fulton-Bennett
kfb@mbari.org
831-775-1835
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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