Sea plankton rise could be due to increased carbon dioxide: research

Researchers have noticed ten times increase in the in marine alga concentration in the Atlantic Ocean during the last few decades. The research team working on the project said that the rise could be due to increase in the carbon dioxide levels. The research paper has been published by a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University. The research team considers the rise in coccolithophores as the first signs of environmental changes due to rise in CO2, which is also considered as a major reason for global warming.

The single-celled coccolithophores have increased in concentration by nearly 10 times in the last few decades. The research team noted that coccolithophores against the popular belief among environmentalists, the rise with increased ocean acidity needs more research work.

The study has been published in the latest issue of journal Science. Study author Anand Gnanadesikan, associate professor in the Morton K. Blaustein Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins said, “Something strange is happening here, and it’s happening much more quickly than we thought it should.”

Scientists have long thought that the number of plankton species would decline due to increased acidity in the oceans. During their study, the team, analyzed Continuous Plankton Recorder survey data from the North Atlantic Ocean and North Sea since the mid-1960s. This revealed that higher carbon dioxide levels in our planet’s oceans may be causing an increase in the population of coccolithophores.

According to William M. Balch of the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine, a co-author of the study, scientisits have long expected that increasing ocean acidification acidity due to higher carbon dioxide would suppress these chalk-shelled organisms. The new study shows, it didn’t.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, ocean acidification will reach to such a level by 2100 that some species of phytoplankton will die out and some will flourish. Though the news seems good for those creatures who feed on coccolithophores, it is still uncertain that the huge increase in the abundance of these creatures is harmful or beneficial to the planet.

Sara Rivero-Calle, a Johns Hopkins doctoral student and lead author of the study, said their analysis from the CPR data is the best predictor of the increase in coccolithophores population. “The consequences of releasing tons of CO2 over the years are already here and this is just the tip of the iceberg. The results presented here are consistent with this and may portend, like the ‘canary in the coal mine,’ where we are headed climatologically”. Many studies conducted in past has shown that increasing CO2 levels in oceans is causing threat to marine lives and other microorganisms living in oceans. William M. Balch, of the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine, said the new study violates the long belief by scientists that increasing ocean acidification due to higher carbon dioxide would suppress these chalk-shelled organisms. In Actual, coccolithophores have been typically more abundant during Earth’s warm interglacial and high CO2 periods.

Catherine Phillips, Northern Californian, 29 November 2015. Article.

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