TechShipwrecks on the seafloor play a critical ecological role

Shipwrecks on the seafloor play a critical ecological role

Shipwrecks at the bottom of the sea are important for nature.
Shipwrecks at the bottom of the sea are important for nature.
Images source: © Wikimedia Commons | Peter Southwood

9:38 AM EST, December 8, 2023

Shipwrecks are more than relics of the past; they play an essential role in nature. According to a study by the University of Plymouth and the Blue Marine Foundation, they significantly contribute to protecting seafloor life.

The groundbreaking research, published in the respected scientific journal "Marine Ecology," offers fresh insight into the role of shipwrecks in marine ecosystems. An estimated ten of thousands of shipwrecks dotting the sea floor off the coast of the United Kingdom have become thriving habitats for marine life.

Approximately 50,000 shipwrecks dot the British coast. These sunken vessels, many of which have lounged on the sea bed for over a century, have become bustling hubs for diverse marine plants and creatures. Their presence impacts the environment positively, as they play a crucial role in protecting the sea floor from damage, especially in areas exposed to intensive trawling.

Around many shipwrecks, the sea floor remains largely intact, despite the damage caused by fishing activities elsewhere. This promotes the development and sustenance of marine life.

Strikingly, compared with neighboring trawled areas, the biodiversity around shipwrecks is about 240% higher. In the immediate radius of approximately 164 feet from the wrecks, the density of marine life skyrockets to about 340%, as compared to control areas.

Joe Richards of the Blue Marine Foundation said, "Shipwrecks have long been thought to provide shelter for many marine species. It's heartening to see this theory proven by the study. The findings give us an idea of what's possible if we reduce bottom trawling activities. Given the vast number of shipwrecks on the sea floor, this aligns with our broader understanding of the potential contribution of shipwrecks to the restoration and improvement of our ecosystem."

This seminal study by the University of Plymouth and the Blue Marine Foundation is the first to illustrate the significant ecological value of shipwrecks and their surrounding areas, particularly in regions exposed to trawling. The discovery could potentially impact future strategies for protecting marine environments substantially.

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