Resources and Hazards

Seafloor Resources and Hazards

In the next five years, we aim to take significant steps in the advancement of our knowledge concerning seafloor/sub-seabed processes for the detection of resources and hazards

The Challenge

The seafloor is a dynamic environment covering 70% of the Earth’s solid surface, and a major boundary of the oceans. Only about 5% of the seafloor has been imaged in any detail, making it one of the last exploration frontiers of our planet. Growing human populations are placing increasing demands on natural resources and the seafloor offers new opportunities, tempered by risks and hazards of the marine environment. The NOC seeks to understand dynamic seafloor processes needed for sustainable resource exploitation, such as the genesis and distribution of seafloor methane hydrates, massive sulphide deposits and habitats for fisheries, and for monitoring of geological CO2 storage sites. Implicit in this, is the understanding of geohazards such as landslides, shallow gas, turbidity currents that threaten seafloor infrastructure and tsunamis that threaten coastal populations.

Our Research

We seek to understand dynamic seafloor processes through primary observations of active processes using the latest technologies like AUVs, ROVs, seafloor landers and sensors. We study environments from hydrothermal systems at mid-ocean ridges to benthic habitats in canyons, from natural methane gas seeps and seafloor hydrates to monitoring potential CO2 gas escape from marine geological storage sites. We are constantly developing geochemical and geophysical methods for improved observations and linking these to Earth system models.

How this provides a benefit to society

21st century human society will need to use all available resources on planet Earth to improve standards of living and for poverty alleviation, and the seafloor offers the last frontier. As such, it is vitally important to manage seafloor resource exploitation in a responsible, sustainable and equitable way, informed by the best possible scientific knowledge on these dynamic environments. The NOC aims to provide this knowledge to support policy makers and develop best practice for a sustainable blue economy of benefit to all nations.