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Ten Years of Scientific Research Conducted in the Mariana Trench: A brief summary

DEAR Friends of the Mariana Trench,

When we are out and about in the community when often make references to the increased volume of research in our Mariana Trench Marine National Monument. In a recent board discussion, we thought you might enjoy a few more details “about all this additional research” that has taken place since the declaration of the monument. It’s also fitting as we are observing the monument’s 10-year anniversary, that everyone might like to know what’s been going on down there!

The following was prepared by Dr. Larisa Ford, FOMT board member and recently retired National Wildlife Refuge manager for the Guam and Mariana Trench refuge complexes.
Since the Mariana Trench was declared a Marine National Monument ten years ago, scientific research has been conducted not only by United States researchers from universities and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) but also groups from Japan, Korea, China and Russia. Special Use Permits issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in coordination with NOAA and CNMI DLNR are required for research conducted within the Monument boundaries. Foreign entities must also be granted approval for their research via the U.S. Department of State for activities conducted within the larger U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Mariana Trench has been a major source of new and interesting discoveries and we thought this was a good time to provide a brief summary.

Over 3,000 research studies have been published in the last decade concerning some aspect of the Mariana Trench, almost half of those studies included the discovery of new species of bacteria from the Trench or studies explaining unique characteristics of these bacteria. Bacteria living at extreme depths produce specialized enzymes that help them exist in the deep sea. These enzymes may have commercial application for development of chemicals and medicines and may have potential to help degrade plastic and toxic compounds (Fang and Kato, 2010; Sekiguchi et al., 2011; Morohoshi et al., 2015).

Of course, the diversity of fishes within the Mariana Trench and the fishes’ adaptations to living at great depths have also been an area of intensive study. For example, a new species of snailfish, Pseudoliparis swirei (see photo), has been described and collected from 6,898 to 7,966 m in the Mariana Trench, and may be the deepest fish that has been collected with verified depth data (Gerringer et al., 2017). Other animals have been studied in the Mariana Trench including, from large whales (Fulling et al., 2011) to unusual enzymes in sea cucumbers that could be used for pharmaceuticals (Li, et al., 2019), to the small, world’s deepest dwelling animal- an amphipod (lan et al., 2017).

Another significant area of study includes the formation of the Mariana Trench itself and related geological properties, volcanic activity and island formation. Various environmental factors have been reported to affect the development and structure of the trench including tectonic processes, depths, slopes, as well as, bottom sediment thickness (Lemenkova, 2018). Other researchers have concentrated on studying the hydrothermal activity at the seafloor and how this activity contributes to the ocean chemical makeup, how seafloor spreading centers are important in providing a variety of elements including minerals to sediments, and how these processes effect the distribution life around hydrothermal vents (Reagan et al., 2013; Ishibashi et al., 2015; Kojima and Watanabe, 2015).

Finally, a few researchers have reported on various economic and social aspects of resources of the Mariana Trench and the Marine National Monument declaration. Studies included analyses of historical and current use of the waters, culturally significant events and the implications of associated regulations, attitudes about marine protected areas, and suggestions for improved collaboration between local partners (Iverson, 2010; Richmond and Kotowicz, 2015; Kotowicz, and Allen, 2015; Kotowicz et al., 2017).

Hopefully, this summary has reinforced the uniqueness of the Mariana Trench and the value it holds for all of us and fills you with pride that the people of the CNMI is one of the protectors of this great and amazing resource.

You can see “10 Years Of Science And Stewardship In Pacific Marine National Monuments“in our Pacific Marine National Monuments from NOAA Fisheries Service here.
We plan to continue keeping everyone updated on new information coming from the Mariana Trench through outreach events and our blog (marianamonument.blogspot.com).

If you want to learn more about the Mariana Trench or want to learn how to protect ocean resources, please send an email to us at marianamonument@gmail.com.

You might also be interested in becoming a member and can find our membership survey here.

Citations:

  1. Fang, J., & Kato, C. (2010). Deep-sea piezophilic bacteria: geomicrobiology and biotechnology. Geomicrobiology: Biodiversity and Biotechnology, 47-77.
  2. Fulling, G. L., Thorson, P. H., & Rivers, J. (2011). Distribution and Abundance Estimates for Cetaceans in the Waters off Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands1. Pacific Science, 65(3), 321-344
  3. Gerringer, M. E., Linley, T. D., Jamieson, A. J., Goetze, E., & Drazen, J. C. (2017). Pseudoliparis swirei sp. nov.: A newly-discovered hadal snailfish (Scorpaeniformes: Liparidae) from the Mariana Trench. Zootaxa, 4358(1), 161-177.
  4. Ishibashi, J. I., Tsunogai, U., Toki, T., Ebina, N., Gamo, T., Sano, Y., … & Chiba, H. (2015). Chemical composition of hydrothermal fluids in the central and southern Mariana Trough backarc basin. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography, 121, 126-136.
  5. Iverson, T. (2010). The Economic Impact of the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 15(3), 319-338.
  6. Kojima, S., & Watanabe, H. (2015). Vent fauna in the Mariana Trough. In Subseafloor Biosphere Linked to Hydrothermal Systems (pp. 313-323). Springer, Tokyo.
  7. Kotowicz, D. M., & Allen, S. D. (2015). Results of a survey of CNMI and Guam residents on the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.
  8. Kotowicz, D. M., Richmond, L., & Hospital, J. (2017). Exploring Public Knowledge, Attitudes, and Perceptions of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. Coastal management, 45(6), 452-469.
  9. Lan, Y., Sun, J., Tian, R., Bartlett, D. H., Li, R., Wong, Y. H., … & Tabata, H. G. (2017). Molecular adaptation in the world’s deepest‐living animal: Insights from transcriptome sequencing of the hadal amphipod Hirondellea gigas. Molecular ecology, 26(14), 3732-3743.
  10. Lemenkova, P. (2018). R scripting libraries for comparative analysis of the correlation methods to identify factors affecting Mariana Trench formation. arXiv preprint arXiv:1812.01099.
  11. Li, Y., Kong, X., & Zhang, H. (2019). Characteristics of a Novel Manganese Superoxide Dismutase of a Hadal Sea Cucumber (Paelopatides sp.) from the Mariana Trench. Marine drugs, 17(2), 84.
  12. Morohoshi, T., Tominaga, Y., Someya, N., & Ikeda, T. (2015). Characterization of a novel thermostable N-acylhomoserine lactonase from the thermophilic bacterium Thermaerobacter marianensis. Journal of bioscience and bioengineering, 120(1), 1-5.
  13. Reagan, M. K., McClelland, W. C., Girard, G., Goff, K. R., Peate, D. W., Ohara, Y., & Stern, R. J. (2013). The geology of the southern Mariana fore-arc crust: Implications for the scale of Eocene volcanism in the western Pacific. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 380, 41-51.
  14. Richmond, L., & Kotowicz, D. (2015). Equity and access in marine protected areas: The history and future of ‘traditional indigenous fishing’in the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. Applied Geography, 59, 117-124.
  15. Sekiguchi, T., Sato, T., Enoki, M., Kanehiro, H., Uematsu, K., & Kato, C. (2011). Isolation and characterization of biodegradable plastic degrading bacteria from deep-sea environments. JAMSTEC Report of Research and Development, 11, 33-41.