Monday, November 19, 2007

Plankton to the Rescue?

Of all the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases we have released up until this point, half of them have been absorbed into the ocean. You might wonder why and where it all goes to in there. Apparently, plankton have the ability to increase their carbon dioxide intake as more and more of the gas dissolves into water. In relation to global temperatures, this definitely bodes well. However, it could have negative, possibly even catastrophic affects on deep-sea ecosystems.

Led by Ulf Riebesell, he and a team of scientists held a series of experiments using three water samples collected from the Raunefjord in Norway. Into the first sample, they simulated the amount of carbon dioxide present in the oceans today, and into the other two their estimates of the amount of carbon dioxide in the years 2100 and 2150. Remarkably, they found that as the amount of gas increased, the faster the plankton incorporated it into photosynthesis and even increased the amount they took in by up to 39%. Then, when the carbon dioxide-enriched plankton die and sink to the bottom of the ocean, they essentially make way for more carbon dioxide to be absorbed, leading Riebesell to conclude that “…the biology in the oceans is significantly affecting the global climate system.”

While this may be a positive thing for those of us above the surface, it may be at the expense of those below it. As the carbon dioxide sinks with the plankton, it will seriously deplete the amounts of oxygen found at the very bottom of the sea. This will have serious consequences for the ecosystems found at there, over time possibly wiping them out. Also, it has been found that crustaceans that feed on the carbon dioxide-enriched plankton matured slowly and were unable to radiate as well. It makes you wonder what may happen over time to other, larger marine life that also feed on plankton, but may not have such visible consequences at this time. While much more research is needed in order to look into the benefits and consequences that the plankton will provide, it is easy to see that they will be both great and tragic.

Posted by Elizabeth Adams (9)


At 11:09 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This is an interesting finding that could have a serious impact on methods to combat global warming. To really understand what effect these plankton have we'll have to know how exactly the deep sea ecosystems are effected, and how that in turn might effect our surface ecosystem. Maybe its mild effect and these plankton can be used to help.

Posted by Jon Hicks.


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