“This proposal aims to produce a step-change in our understanding on the cumulative impacts of human activities (e.g. deep-sea mining, fishing) and climate change on CWCs health and survival and their resilience to such impacts. CWC ecosystems are important deep-sea biodiversity hotspots in the Azores region and provided essential habitat for many commercially important fish species. However, CWCs are particularly vulnerable to human impacts. This proposal will ultimately contribute to the improved application of indicators of Good Environmental Status (GES) relevant to the Azores ecosystems, for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and its constituent descriptors. The main objectives of this proposal are:
- Assess the cumulative impacts of deep-sea mining and climate change on cold-water corals metabolism; under Cu toxicity conditions generated during sea-floor massive sulfides mining operations and predicted scenarios of ocean acidification. To address this objective a land-based experiment will be set to expose two physiological distinct CWC species, to scenarios of decreased seawater pH and high Cu concentrations.
- Assess the recovery potential of cold-water corals under cumulative deep-sea mining and fisheries impacts; under copper toxicity and physical injuries. This objective will be achieved by creating a scenario simulating injuries on CWCs caused by bottom fishing gear and by exposing them to high Cu concentrations. Subsequently, CWCs will be deployed in their natural habitat and monitored periodically to evaluate their recovery potential.
- Provide information on key indicators to support decision tools for a sustainable management of Azores seabed resources exploitation, such as mortality and survival rates, recovery from injuries, growth rates, and metabolic adaptations, among others. Additionally, these indicators can be used in transdisciplinary predictive models of VMEs and EBSAs in national waters and ABNJ.”