Study co-author Henry Ruhl of Britain's National Oceanography Center, said no one is really sure yet whether global climate change is already having major impacts on deep-sea ecosystems. But long-term studies during the last two decades have revealed unexpectedly large changes in deep-ocean ecosystems that are clearly linked to changes in the surface ocean resulting from variation in climate.
The scientists said much of the new understanding has come from two key sites -- one in the northeastern Pacific and the other in the northeastern Atlantic -- from water depths of around 13,400 feet and 16,000 feet.
Deep-sea processes are rarely considered in discussions of global warming, the scientists noted.
"This out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality in ignoring the vast expanse of the deep ocean needs to be reversed in light of long-term datasets from two major ocean basins showing that the deep sea is strongly impacted by climate variation over a range of time scales."
The study that included Kenneth Smith Jr. of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute is detailed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.