Second mission launched to explore underwater mountains

Scientists are set to launch a mission that will take scientists to study underwater mountains in the Indian Ocean.

The mission, headed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is the second along the South-West Indian Ocean Ridge; the first set out in November 2009.

Scientists will spend six weeks aboard the RRS James Cook, a UK research vessel, to study seamounts – underwater mountains that rise up to at least 1000 metres above the sea bed.

“Because of their interactions with underwater currents, the biodiversity that develops around them is remarkably rich,” the BBC quoted Aurelie Spadone, team member and IUCN’s marine programme officer, as saying.

“They attract a great diversity of species and act as a type of ‘bed and breakfast’ for deep-sea predators such as sharks, which often feed on seamount communities,” she said.

Modern fishing practices like deep sea trawling are a big threat to ocean biodiversity and this expedition hopes to understand its impact on ecosystems supported by seamounts.

“Many of them grow and reproduce slowly, which makes them particularly vulnerable to overexploitation,” said director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme.

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