Rising ocean acidity may deplete vital phytoplankton

Iron-poor oceans may cause populations of phytoplankton — a critical base of the marine food chain — to decline.

Rising acid levels in the world’s oceans appear to be robbing the tiny animals that form the bedrock of the marine food web of a vital nutrient. This shift in the ocean’s chemistry could reduce populations of phytoplankton, which could touch off a cascade of changes to ocean life.

Roughly one-third of the oceans contain phytoplankton that are limited in their growth by the amount of iron available to them. A study published today in Science, suggested that zone could grow.

“The concept of changes to ocean productivity and ecosystems due to acidification is a very important one to consider,” said Ken Buesseler of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Mass., who was not a part of the study. “If half of the photosynthesis on the planet is in the ocean and if you reduce that because of acidification, that is a big deal.”

Ocean acidification is a trickle-down effect of climate change. Higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere drive more CO2 to dissolve into the ocean, making it more acidic.

Jessica Marshall, DiscoveryNews, 14 January 2010. Full article.

2 Responses to “Rising ocean acidity may deplete vital phytoplankton”

  1. 1 Gail Zawacki 16 January 2010 at 22:16

    I’m assuming you have linked this film elsewhere but in case not, here it is, an excellent video demonstrating ocean acidification:


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