CenSeam Mission: To determine the role of seamounts in the biogeography, biodiversity, productivity, and evolution of marine organisms, and to evaluate the effects of human exploitation on seamounts.

Seamounts are prominent features of the world’s underwater topography and are often of volcanic origin. It is estimated that there are potentially up to 100,000, seamounts over 1 km high and many more of smaller elevation. Seamounts can sometimes support high biodiversity and special biological communities, with some evidence of high levels of endemic species. They may also play an important role in patterns of marine biogeography. Seamounts are often highly productive ecosystems, and act as feeding grounds for fishes, marine mammals and seabirds. Seamount systems are extremely valuable; they are the target of offshore commercial fishing, and are of potential interest for seabed mining. However, the long term impacts of such activities remain unquantifiable.

Relatively few seamounts have been studied, with only about 350 having been sampled, and less than 100 in any detail. On a global scale their biodiversity is poorly known. CenSeam will provide the framework needed to prioritize, integrate, expand, and facilitate seamount research efforts in order to significantly reduce the unknown, and build towards a global understanding of seamount ecosystems, and the roles they have in the biogeography, biodiversity, productivity, and evolution of marine organisms.

CenSeam will:


The Census of Marine Life (CoML) is an international science research program uniting researchers from more than 70 nations with the goal of assessing and explaining the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life – past, present and future by 2010. CenSeam officially joined the Census of Marine Life in February 2005. The CenSeam secretariat is hosted by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) in Wellington, New Zealand. Click on the icons to learn more about the Census and the work of NIWA.