Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Greenhouse gas likely altering ocean foodchain: Atmospheric CO2 has big consequences for tiny bacteria

Date:
July 2, 2013
Source:
University of Southern California
Summary:
Climate change may be weeding out the bacteria that form the base of the ocean's food chain, selecting certain strains for survival, according to a new study.

Colony of trichodesmium bacteria roughly the size of the head of a pin.
Credit: Eric Webb/USC

Climate change may be weeding out the bacteria that form the base of the ocean's food chain, selecting certain strains for survival, according to a new study.

In climate change, as in everything, there are winners and losers. As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and temperature rise globally, scientists increasingly want to know which organisms will thrive and which will perish in the environment of tomorrow.

The answer to this question for nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria (bacteria that obtain energy through photosynthesis, or "blue-green algae") turns out to have implications for every living thing in the ocean. Nitrogen-fixing is when certain special organisms like cyanobacteria convert inert -- and therefore unusable -- nitrogen gas from the air into a reactive form that the majority of other living beings need to survive. Without nitrogen fixers, life in the ocean could not survive for long.

"Our findings show that CO2 has the potential to control the biodiversity of these keystone organisms in ocean biology, and our fossil fuel emissions are probably responsible for changing the types of nitrogen fixers that are growing in the ocean," said David Hutchins, professor of marine environmental biology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and lead author of an article about this research that appeared in Nature Geoscience on June 30.

"This may have all kinds of ramifications for changes in ocean food chains and productivity, even potentially for resources we harvest from the ocean such as fisheries production," Hutchins said.

Hutchins and his team studied two major groups of nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria: Trichodesmium, which forms large floating colonies big enough to see with the naked eye and makes vast "blooms" in the open ocean, and Crocosphaera, which is also very abundant but is a single-celled, microscopic organism.

Previous research showed that these two types of cyanobacteria should be some of the biggest "winners" of climate change, thriving in high CO2 levels and warmer oceans. However, those previous studies only examined one or two strains of the organisms.

That's where USC's unique resource comes into play -- the university is home to a massive culture library of strains and species of the organisms assembled by USC Associate Professor Eric Webb.

Using the culture library, the team was able to show that some strains grow better at CO2 levels not seen since the start of the Industrial Revolution, while others will thrive in the future "greenhouse" Earth.

"It's not that climate change will wipe out all nitrogen fixers; we've shown that there's redundancy in nature's system. Rather, increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide changes specifically which nitrogen fixers are likely to thrive," Hutchins said. "And we're not entirely certain how that will change the ocean of tomorrow."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. David A. Hutchins, Fei-Xue Fu, Eric A. Webb, Nathan Walworth, Alessandro Tagliabue. Taxon-specific response of marine nitrogen fixers to elevated carbon dioxide concentrations. Nature Geoscience, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1858

Cite This Page:

University of Southern California. "Greenhouse gas likely altering ocean foodchain: Atmospheric CO2 has big consequences for tiny bacteria." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130702141506.htm>.
University of Southern California. (2013, July 2). Greenhouse gas likely altering ocean foodchain: Atmospheric CO2 has big consequences for tiny bacteria. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130702141506.htm
University of Southern California. "Greenhouse gas likely altering ocean foodchain: Atmospheric CO2 has big consequences for tiny bacteria." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130702141506.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Trick-or-Treating Banned Because of Polar Bears

Trick-or-Treating Banned Because of Polar Bears

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) — Mother Nature is pulling a trick on the kids of Arviat, Canada. As Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) tells us, the effects of global warming caused the town to ban trick-or-treating this Halloween. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — The United Nations says water is a human right, but should it be free? Detroit has cut off water to residents who can't pay, and the U.N. isn't happy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) — Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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