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Accelerated demand for exploration of minerals and development of mining technologies over the past decade could lead to commercial mining of the deep seafloor in the near future. The campaign for conservation of biological diversity claims that there will be impacts of seabed mining to the deep-sea community and suggests a precautionary approach. In this chapter, we summarize the basic characteristics of communities in hydrothermal vent fields and describe the potential impact of resource mining as well as some previous observations on the effect of natural disturbances. We then introduce a model-based approach to determine the resilience of vent communities, thereby predicting if the communities will be vulnerable or robust to disturbances. Resilience of ecological systems is assessed by measuring the time required to recover to the original state prior to being disturbed. A mathematical model capable of predicting resilience would represent an important contribution to the management of these unique ecosystems. However, compared to most terrestrial and shallow water ecosystems, information regarding hydrothermal vent ecosystems, which are typically found at depths of over 1000 m, is limited. We thus focused on connectivity of vent communities through larval dispersal as a key factor for resilience. We will show how our framework can be used as a practical tool to characterize, understand, or predict resilience. The framework presented here can help assess ecological impacts and develop mitigation strategies associated with deep-sea resource mining. We also discuss what will need to be developed further to better achieve these objectives.
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- Mining in Hydrothermal Vent Fields: Predicting and Minimizing Impacts on Ecosystems with the Use of a Mathematical Modeling Framework