Deep-sea hydrothermal vent ecosystem principles: Identification of ecosystem processes, services and communication of value

Phillip J. Turner*, Andrew D. Thaler, Amy Freitag, Patrick Colman Collins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Difficulties in quantifying the value of an ecosystem have prompted efforts to emphasize how human well-being depends on the physical, chemical and biological properties of an ecosystem (i.e., ecosystem structure) as well as ecosystem functioning. Incorporating ecosystem structure and function into discussions of value is important for deep-sea ecosystems because many deep-sea ecosystem services indirectly benefit humans and are more difficult to quantify. This study uses an ecosystem principles approach to illustrate a broader definition of value for deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Expert opinion, solicited using an iterative survey approach, was used to develop principles that describe hydrothermal vent processes and their links to human well-being. Survey participants established 28 principles relating to ecosystem structure (n = 12), function (n = 6), cultural services (n = 8) and provisioning services (n = 2), namely the provision of mineral deposits and genetic resources. Principles relating to cultural services emphasized the inspirational value of hydrothermal vents for the arts and ocean education, as well as their importance as a frontier in scientific research. The prevalence of principles relating to ecosystem structure and function (n = 18) highlights the need to understand subsequent links to ecosystem services. For example, principles relating to regulating services were not established by the expert group but links between ecosystem function and regulating services can be made. The ecosystem principles presented here emphasize a more holistic concept of value that will be important to consider as regulations are developed for the exploitation of minerals associated with deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-124
Number of pages7
JournalMarine Policy
Early online date23 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2019


  • Deep-sea mining
  • Ecosystem functioning
  • Ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem structure
  • Ecosystem valuation
  • Intrinsic value

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Law

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