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

News for topic: Seafloor Hazards and Marine Resources

[Translate to English:] Vor 35 Millionen Jahren schlug an der nordamerikanischen Ostküste ein Asteroid ein. Auswurf-Material aus der Einschlagstelle verteilte sich über eine Fläche von mindestens 7 Millionen Quadratkilomtern (Tektite field). In Bohrproben vom Meeresboden, die 400 Kilometer von der Einschlagstelle entfernt genommen worden sind (ODP 1073) haben Forscherinnen und Forscher jetzt eindeutige Spuren des Einschlags gefunden und erstmals mit der Uran-Thorium-Helium-Technik datiert. Image reproduced from the GEBCO world map 2014,

Space exploration on the sea floor

Traces of an extraterrestrial impact event detected in marine sediments

[Translate to English:] Entlang der Nordanatolischen Verwerfung schieben sich Anatolien und die Eurasische Erdplatte aneinander vorbei. Image reproduced from the GEBCO world map 2014,

Istanbul: Seafloor study proves earthquake risk for the first time

GeoSEA sensors document tectonic strain build-up below the Sea of Marmara

[Translate to English:] Das Forschungsschiff SONNE vor Ritter Island während der Expedition SO252 im Herbst 2016. Foto: Christian Berndt/GEOMAR

Precursors of a Catastrophic Collapse

Ritter Island gives new insights into the dynamics of volcanic landslides

The participants of the expedition SO267 and the research vessel SONNE shortly before leaving the port of Suva (Fiji). Photo: Philipp Brandl + Nico Augustin/GEOMAR

Christmas in the Western Pacific

Kiel Marine Scientists investigate the birthplace of a continent with RV SONNE

In spring 2016, a team from GEOMAR and Kiel University on board the research vessel POSEIDON installed the GeoSEA transponders on the eastern flank of Mount Etna. Photo: Felix Gross (CC BY 4.0)

GeoSEA array records sliding of Mount Etna’s southeastern flank

Volcano flank moves under water – Tsunami is a possible consequence

Manganese nodules in the Clarion Clipperton Zone in more than 4000 metres depth.  In a few years some countries could apply to the International Seabed Authority for a mining licence in the CCZ. Photo: ROV-Team/GEOMAR (CC BY 4.0)

Deep-sea Mining: Research on Risks and Environmental Impacts Continues

The 2nd phase of the JPI Oceans project "MiningImpact" has started

Area of investigation at the Cayman Trough in the Caribbean. Graphics. Ingo Grevemeyer/GEOMAR

Cold Production of New Seafloor

First seismic evidence for mantle exhumation at an ultraslow-spreading centre

Gas hydrates are nicknamed "burning ice" because of the trapped methane. Photo: Science Party SO174

Gas hydrate research: Advanced knowledge and new technologies

After ten years, the SUGAR project concludes with a conference in Potsdam

Schematic evolution of retrogressive slope failure due to overpressured gas below the gas haydrate stability zone (GHSZ): a submarine slope with gas hydrate-bearing sediments  and overpressured gas (bright area) at the bottom of the GHSZ induces pipe generation into the GHSZ,  the conduit encounters a permeable layer; gas enters and leads to overpressure transfer from the bottom of the GHSZ to the shallow subsurface, and finally overpessured gas causes shear banding in the weak layer and generates retrogressive slope failure.

Stable gas hydrates can trigger landslides

"Cement of continental slopes" effect slope stability differently than previously thought

Bathymetric map of the Nyegga region off the coast of Central Norway. Graphic: Jens Karstens / GEOMAR

Why did gas hydrates melt at the end of the last ice age?

GEOMAR researchers find links between sedimentation and methane seeps on the seafloor off the coast of Norway