ICES Annual Science Conference 2022

Theme session H

Impacts of human activities and pressures on seafloor ecosystems: past, present and future

Wednesday 21 September 13:30 - 15:00
President's suite
​​​​We seek to answer the question: How can we better incorporate the benthos into ecosystem assessment and management? We will do this by considering a series of questions in “world café" style discussion format, including anticipating changes in benthic ecosystem service delivery, the challenges to doing so, and the possible approaches we can employ. We will then report to ICES on how the benthos might be better represented in ICES Ecosystem Overviews now and in the future. 


​​The intent of this session is to share understanding and foster collaboration among researchers studying the diversity of pressures affecting seafloor ecosystems and their corresponding impacts. Covering 66% of the Earth's surface the seafloor makes a substantial contribution to ecosystem functioning by providing habitat, storing and transporting organic and inorganic carbon and essential nutrients, and supporting diverse ecosystems.

Centuries of human activity has undermined seafloor integrity (the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the sea bottom) and continues to do so, drastically changing the physical and chemical structure of the seafloor and the communities that inhabit it. Increasing use of marine ecosystem services and the changing nature of human activities is such that the uses of seafloor ecosystems are expanding (i.e. deep-sea mining, trans-ocean cables, offshore renewables), producing new challenges.

We consider this from a historic, present-day and future-oriented perspective. Topics covered include:
  • describing past and present trends in human pressures and impacts on the structure and function of the seafloor, and anticipating future changes
  • understanding and quantifying multiple impacts of human activities on seafloor populations and ecosystems (including mapping of natural habitats and pressures), the transference of impacts through bentho-pelagic coupling, and proposing options for mitigation
  • estimating the vulnerability of marine benthic ecosystem (both structure and functioning) to pressures and impacts, considering of variations through space and time, assessing risk, and identifying limits or thresholds for change
  • assessing human impacts on ecosystem services delivered by the seabed, and developing approaches to mitigate undesirable impacts
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​Photo: ​© JNCC 2009​


Bryony Caswell (UK)
Julian Burgos (Iceland)
Jan Vanaverbeke (Belgium)

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Theme session H

International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) · Conseil International pour l'Exploration de la Mer (CIEM)
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