Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Global Warming Is Reducing Ocean Life, Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, Say Scientists

Date:
December 7, 2006
Source:
University of California - Santa Barbara
Summary:
Alarming new satellite data show that the warming of the world's oceans is reducing ocean life while contributing to increased global warming. The ocean's food chain is based upon the growth of billions upon billions of microscopic plants. New satellite data show that ocean warming is reducing these plants ---- thus imperiling ocean fisheries and marine life, according to an article in the Nov. 7 issue of the scientific journal Nature.

Scientists now have nearly a decade's worth of data showing the cycle of plant life in the Earth's oceans. From space, the "ocean color" satellites measure the ocean's biology as plant productivity. In this visualization, high plant productivity is represented in green, while areas of low productivity remain blue. Data were collected by the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS).
Credit: NASA/GeoEye

Alarming new satellite data show that the warming of the world's oceans is reducing ocean life while contributing to increased global warming.

The ocean's food chain is based upon the growth of billions upon billions of microscopic plants. New satellite data show that ocean warming is reducing these plants ---- thus imperiling ocean fisheries and marine life, according to an article in the Nov. 7 issue of the scientific journal Nature.

"We show on a global scale that the growth of these plants, called phytoplankton, is strongly tied to changes in the warming of the ocean," said David Siegel, co-author and professor of marine science in the Department of Geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Siegel is also director of the Institute for Computational Earth System Science (ICESS).

"Phytoplankton grow faster in a cool ocean and slower in a warm one," said Siegel. "The scary part is that the oceans are warming now ---- probably caused by our emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide."

These microscopic plants are predicted to grow even slower in the warmer oceans of the future. This in turn will reduce the food available to fish and other organisms, including marine birds and mammals, which are supported by the ocean's food chain. Phytoplankton are responsible for about the same amount of photosynthesis each year as all the plants on land combined.

Another disturbing result of reduced phytoplankton is that our atmosphere depends on the consumption of atmospheric carbon dioxide by these plants. Reduced phytoplankton means less carbon dioxide is taken up by the ocean, which could speed global warming, contributing to a vicious cycle of increased warming.

"Rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere play a big part in global warming," said lead author Michael Behrenfeld of Oregon State University. "This study shows that as the climate warms, phytoplankton growth rates go down and along with them the amount of carbon dioxide these ocean plants consume. That allows carbon dioxide to accumulate more rapidly in the atmosphere, which would produce more warming."

The findings are from a NASA-funded analysis of data from the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) instrument on the OrbView-2 spacecraft, launched in 1997. The uninterrupted nine-year record shows in great detail the ups and downs of marine biological activity or productivity from month to month and year to year. Captured at the start of this data record was a major, rapid rebound in ocean biological activity after a major El Niño event. El Niño and La Niña are major warming or cooling events, respectively, that occur approximately every three to seven years in the eastern Pacific Ocean and are known to change weather patterns around the world.

Scientists made their discovery by comparing the SeaWiFS record of the rise and fall of global ocean plant life to different measures of recent global climate change. The climate records included several factors that directly affect ocean conditions, such as changes in sea surface temperature and surface winds. The results support computer model predictions of what could happen to the world's oceans as the result of prolonged future climate warming.

"When we compared changes in phytoplankton activity with simultaneous changes in climate conditions, the agreement between the two records was simply astonishing," Behrenfeld said.

Ocean plant growth increased from 1997 to 1999 as the climate cooled during one of the strongest El Niño to La Niña transitions on record. Since 1999, the climate has been in a period of warming that has seen the health of ocean plants diminish.

The new study also explains why a change in climate produces this effect on ocean plant life. When the climate warms, the temperature of the upper ocean also increases, making it "lighter" than the denser cold water beneath it. This results in a layering or "stratification" of ocean waters that creates an effective barrier between the surface layer and the nutrients below, cutting off phytoplankton's food supply. The scientists confirmed this effect by comparing records of ocean surface water density with the SeaWiFS biological data.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Santa Barbara. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Santa Barbara. "Global Warming Is Reducing Ocean Life, Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, Say Scientists." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 December 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061207084052.htm>.
University of California - Santa Barbara. (2006, December 7). Global Warming Is Reducing Ocean Life, Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, Say Scientists. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061207084052.htm
University of California - Santa Barbara. "Global Warming Is Reducing Ocean Life, Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, Say Scientists." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061207084052.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

California Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) — For months California has suffered from a historic drought. The lack of water is worrying for farmers and ranchers, but for gold diggers it’s a stroke of good fortune. With water levels low, normally inaccessible areas are exposed. Duration: 01:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener

Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) — With only three weeks until Minnesota's fishing opener, many are wondering if the ice will be gone. Some of the Northland lakes are still covered by up to three feet of ice, causing concern that just like last year, the lakes won't be ready. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — South Korean officials say North Korea is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, but is Pyongyang just bluffing this time? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) — NASA is inviting all social media users to take a selfie of themselves alongside nature and to post it to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, or Google Plus with the hashtag #globalselfie. NASA's goal is to crowd-source a collection of snapshots of the earth, ground-up, that will be used to create one "unique mosaic of the Blue Marble." This image will be available to all in May. Since this is probably one of the few times posting a selfie to Twitter won't be embarrassing, we suggest you give it a go for a good cause. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins