BIOACID Science Portrait: Lennart Bach – “Emiliania huxleyi – A tiny alga with a large impact”

Lennart Bach, marine biologist at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel investigates a tiny organism that can hardly be seen with the naked eye – and is still visible from space. The single-celled calcifying alga that his research focuses on is called Emiliania huxleyi. It is a true multi-talent: Its calcium carbonate platelets carry organic material from the surface to the deep ocean, which regulates carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. A gas that it releases – and that we perceive as the typical sea smell – is thought to serve as cooling agent in the climate system.

Experiments revealed that the alga is able to adapt to ocean acidification through evolution to a certain degree. But in its natural environment, it fails to prevail. But nonetheless Lennart Bach thinks: “The organism has frequently surprised us. So it would not be entirely astonishing if there was another twist in the plot.”

The BIOACID science portraits complement a photo exhibition on ocean acidification is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the Science Year 2016*17 – Seas and Oceans.

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