Deep Sea Ecosystems

Hidden Habitats: Biodiversity on the Margins

The deep sea, previously considered untouchably remote, is a lot closer than many perceive.  Human-generated pollution, overfishing, and climate change are having a direct impact on deep-sea environments and their inhabitants.  Lisa Levin has investigated a variety of bizarre creatures that have adapted to extreme deep sea settings, from toxic methane seeps to massive zones where oxygen levels are next to nothing.

One such zone exists off California at roughly 600 to 1,000 meters (2,000 to 3,200 feet) deep, part of a continuous zone that spans from Alaska to central Chile. Because such zones occur naturally, Levin says they have become an important comparative tool for studying human-produced "dead zones" created by pollution and ocean warming. The animals living in hypoxic zones employ a variety of strategies to make a living there, including those with specialized gills or tentacles to extract what little oxygen is available.

"The deep sea is not that far away in terms of our activities and impact,
" said Levin noting an assortment of urban items from shoes to beer cans in the depths. Much remains to be studied and explored in the deep sea especially before humanity reaches down into the ocean depths and irreversibly changes what's there. "By not knowing what's down there, we run the risk of destroying things before we've discovered them. Every time we make a new discovery we learn more about how life works and how it evolved."

DOSI is a consortium of participants from 14 countries who seek to integrate science, technology, policy, law and economics to advise on ecosystem-based management of resource use in  the deep ocean and strategies to maintain the integrity of deep-ocean ecosystems within and beyond national jurisdiction.

News from the deep sea

Challenges to Deep-Ocean Biodiversity in the 2st Century (January 2014)
Archived Webinar (requires log in) of Dr. Lisa Levin's Presentation

Follow the fish: A global, long-term program of ecological monitoring is needed to track ocean health (pdf -October 2013) 
Comment in Nature by J. Anthony Koslow and Jennifer Couture

Report from Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative-Expert Planning Workshop (pdf-April 2013)

Explorers Club recommendations on the National Ocean Policy (pdf - March 2013)

CMBC's Kirk Sato joins Esperanza cruise in the Bering Sea to collect scientific data in support of protecting Pribilof Canyon from fishing
(Summer 2012)

Comments from concerned scientists and policy experts on the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan. (pdf - 2012)

Conservation Concerns in the Deep (pdf)
Aaron Hartmann and Lisa Levin. Science Commentary 2012

What we don't know about the deep sea (July 2012)

Voyage to Mariana Trench reveals mysterious life forms in the Extreme Deep (Nov 2011)

Researchers Identify Mysterious life forms in the Extreme Deep Sea  (Oct 2011)

For a Giant Single-Celled Organism, Home Is the Deepest Address on the Planet

The New York Times - October 31, 2011 (reprint pdf)

Gulf of California Deep Sea Secrets - Perspectives on Ocean Science
with Dr. Octavio Aburto and Dr. Brad Erisman

The Fate of the Last Great Wilderness

Blog by Julia Whitty (8-2-11)

Levin helps raise deep concern for the deep sea (Aug 2011)

Man and the last Great Wilderness: Human Impact on the Deep Sea
Ramirez-Llodra,Eva et. al  2011 PLOS One

Designating networks of chemosynthetic ecosystem reserves in the deep sea (Marine Policy 36 (2012) 378-381)
C.L. Van Dover et al.

Levin Lab finds Deep-Ocean Low-Oxygen Zones Spreading to Shallower Coastal Waters  (Scientific American 2-23-10)

Environmental Management of Deep-Sea Chemosynthetic Ecosystems

Uncharted Waters: Placing Deep-Sea Chemosynthetic Ecosystems in Reserve

Seamount Scientists Offer New Comprehensive View of Deep-Sea (Underwatertimes 2-22-10)

Rouse lab reports new species found  -

(Reported in San Diego News Network by La Jollas Village News ) 

Arrow points to the "green bombs" on this newly discovered marine worm.


Dr. Lisa Levin's class on Deep Sea Biology (Fall 2009)  

Seamount Ecology

Karen Stocks is an assistant research scientist at the San Diego Supercomputer Center. Her interests include biodiversity informatics, marine biogeography and seamount ecology.  Her main projects include:  SeamountsOnline (, an online database of species distributions on seamounts; and the Global Census of Marine Life on Seamounts (CemSeam), an international research collaboration aimed at determining the role of seamounts in the biogeography, biodiversity, productivity, and evolution of marine organisms, and evaluating the effects of human exploitation on seamounts. Karen is a member of the CenSeam secretariat.