Maine scientist leads ocean acidification study in South Atlantic

Bigelow Lab Chief Scientist Barney Blach is leading a group of researchers on the expedition, aimed at determining the effects of CO2 build-up in the atmosphere on a vast swath of phytoplankton crucial to the marine food web.

A Maine scientist is leading a team of researchers from seven institutions in an expedition to the South Atlantic aimed at studying climate threats to the so-called Great Southern Belt, a swath of phytoplankton that blooms annually in the Southern Hemisphere.

Barney Balch, chief scientist at Maine’s Bigelow Lab, is currently on a ship halfway between South America and South Africa studying the effects of the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere on the Great Belt.

Carbon dioxide makes surface seawater more acidic, raising concerns about its effects on the annual bloom, which plays a key role in the marine food web, global carbon cycle and climate, according to Bigelow officials.

The expedition, supported by the National Science foundation, is the first systematic investigation of ocean acidification on the Great Belt, lab officials say. The group left Chile Jan. 11 on the 279-foot research vessel R/V Melville and is due to arrive in South Africa Feb. 16.

The Maine Public Broadcasting Network, 31 January 2011. Article.

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