Seafloor Hazards and Marine Resources

How can we identify the natural hazards of the sea at an early stage?

The earth is a dynamic body under constant development: new ocean floor, which slides underneath the lighter continental plates at deep-sea trenches, is created at mid-ocean ridges. These processes are the fundamental sources of earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic activity – the natural hazards which have disastrous consequences in many parts of the world. The scientists at GEOMAR are gaining a better understanding of these processes in order to create risk assessments for coastal areas and to warn against natural disasters at an early stage. Autonomous and remotely operated instruments, including ocean bottom seismometers and long-term geodetic observatories are just some of the innovative monitoring devices that are used for sensing and monitoring the sea floor. Information is generated by direct sampling and by indirect methods, such as seismic or hydroacoustic surveying. In addition, theoretical studies employing sophisticated computer models help to better understand the long-term processes that cannot be observed in the human lifespan.

How can we utilize marine resources in an environmentally sustainable way?

Biological, mineral and energetic ressources are found in the ocean and on the seabed. At GEOMAR, deposits and possible environmentally compatible uses are being investigated in various areas. A large number of mineral raw materials are hidden in the seabed, although the exact quantities and locations are still widely unknown. These include massive sulphides, which form in areas of volcanic activity at the plate boundaries in the oceans, as well as manganese nodules on the sediment-covered deep-sea plains. Research on marine mineral resources has been conducted at GEOMAR for many years. With an interdisciplinary research approach and in close scientific cooperation worldwide, opportunities and risks for the use of mineral resources are comprehensively examined. In addition to the search for new deposits and the assessment of the economic potential, the ecological risks of possible deep-sea mining are of great importance and are being researched by GEOMAR. This includes, for example, assessing the long-term effects and risks to the environment from deep-sea manganese nodule mining. Marine resources also include marine organisms that are rich in ingredients from which life-saving medicines and other multifunctional active substances can be obtained. The GEOMAR Centre for Marine Biotechnology (GEOMAR-Biotech) is a central component of the research unit Marine Natural Products Chemistry, where applied research in the field of marine biotechnology is located.

Further scientific information can be found on the pages of the Research Division 4: Dynamics of the Ocean Floor and with respect to biological ressources also in the Research Division 3: Marine Ecology

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