Seabed 2030 marks milestone with new discoveries
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Seabed 2030 marks milestone with new discoveries

On World Hydrography Day, the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project announced a milestone: 4.34 million square kilometres of new ocean floor data, an area the size of the European Union, have now been mapped. This global effort, led by Seabed 2030 – a collaboration between the Nippon Foundation and GEBCO (a joint IHO and IOC-UNESCO programme) – aims to map the entire ocean floor. Seabed 2030 is also a flagship of the Ocean Decade, dedicated to achieving a sustainable and well-managed ocean.

The latest figure of 26.1% mapped showcases the ongoing advancements in seafloor mapping technologies and activities. This increase not only marks progress in the portion of the seabed mapped but also highlights the significant discoveries made through this global effort to explore Earth’s final frontier – discoveries essential for sustainable ocean management.

Underwater mountains

In another remarkable find, the crew aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor (too) discovered four underwater mountains, with the tallest standing over 2,400 metres high, using multibeam mapping techniques. These seafloor features, revealed during a transit from Golfito, Costa Rica, to Valparaiso, Chile, had not been previously recorded in any bathymetric database. Additionally, scientists aboard the Falkor (too) identified over 100 potential new marine species during a single deep-sea expedition, highlighting the vast, untapped biodiversity of the ocean.

In the past year, ocean research has characterized the largest known deep-sea coral reef habitat off the south-east US coast. Led by Seabed 2030 partner NOAA Ocean Exploration and supported by various government, academic and private sector collaborators, this multi-year campaign revealed an extensive coral habitat spanning over 6.4 million acres on the Blake Plateau.

“This strategic multi-agency effort to systematically map and characterize the stunning coral ecosystem right on the doorstep of the US east coast is a perfect example of what we can accomplish when we pool resources and focus on exploring the 74% of global marine waters that are still unmapped,” said Derek Sowers, lead author of the study and mapping operations manager at Ocean Exploration Trust.

Critical role of seafloor mapping

Advanced sonar and imaging techniques documented 83,908 coral mounds, showcasing the immense biodiversity previously unknown in this region. This discovery, supported by imagery from 23 submersible dives, underscores the critical role of seafloor mapping in revealing previously uncharted aspects of the ocean.

Executive director of Schmidt Ocean Institute Jyotika Virmani stated: “What lies beneath the waves is the largest mystery on our planet and the ocean continues to reveal magnificent new surprises. Schmidt Ocean Institute is proud to be a partner of The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project and a part of the phenomenal international effort currently underway to map our entire planet for the first time in human history.”

These findings highlight the vital importance of seabed mapping in increasing our understanding of marine ecosystems and informing frameworks for sustainable management.

Shaded blue areas represent the regions mapped in the 2024 GEBCO Grid release. (Image courtesy: Pauline Weatherall/Seabed 2030 Global Center)
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