Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tiny plankton could have big impact on climate: CO2-hungry microbes might short-circuit the marine foodweb

Date:
September 13, 2013
Source:
European Geosciences Union (EGU)
Summary:
As the climate changes and oceans’ acidity increases, tiny plankton seem set to succeed. Marine scientists have found that the smallest plankton groups thrive under elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. This could cause an imbalance in the food web as well as decrease ocean CO2uptake, an important regulator of global climate.

Researchers check the "mesocosms," eight-meter long floatation frames carrying plastic bags with a capacity of 50 cubic meters, deployed for a five-week long field study on ocean acidification conducted in the Kongsfjord off the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.
Credit: Ulf Riebesell/GEOMAR

As the climate changes and oceans' acidity increases, tiny plankton seem set to succeed. An international team of marine scientists has found that the smallest plankton groups thrive under elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. This could cause an imbalance in the food web as well as decrease ocean CO2 uptake, an important regulator of global climate. The results of the study, conducted off the coast of Svalbard, Norway, in 2010, are now compiled in a special issue published in Biogeosciences, a journal of the European Geosciences Union.

Related Articles


"If the tiny plankton blooms, it consumes the nutrients that are normally also available to larger plankton species," explains Ulf Riebesell, a professor of biological oceanography at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel in Germany and head of the experimental team. This could mean the larger plankton run short of food.

Large plankton play an important role in carbon export to the deep ocean, but in a system dominated by the so-called pico- and nanoplankton, less carbon is transported out of surface waters. "This may cause the oceans to absorb less CO2 in the future," says Riebesell.

The potential imbalance in the plankton food web may have an even bigger climate impact. Large plankton are also important producers of a climate-cooling gas called dimethyl sulphide, which stimulates cloud-formation over the oceans. Less dimethyl sulphide means more sunlight reaches Earth's surface, adding to the greenhouse effect. "These important services of the ocean may thus be significantly affected by acidification."

Ecosystems in the Arctic are some of the most vulnerable to acidification because the cold temperatures here mean that the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide. "Acidification is faster there than in temperate or tropical regions," explains the coordinator of the European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA), Jean-Pierre Gattuso of the Laboratory of Oceanography of Villefranche-sur-Mer of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).

The increasing acidity is known to affect some calcifying organisms in the Arctic, including certain sea snails, mussels and other molluscs. But scientists did not know until now how ocean acidification alters both the base of the marine food web and carbon transport in the ocean.

The five-week long field study conducted in the Kongsfjord off the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, under the EPOCAframework, intended to close this knowledge gap. For the experiment, the scientists deployed nine large 'mesocosms', eight-metre long floatation frames carrying plastic bags with a capacity of 50 cubic metres. These water enclosures, developed at GEOMAR, allow researchers to study plankton communities in their natural environment under controlled conditions, rather than in a beaker in the lab. Few studies have looked at whole communities before.

The scientists gradually added CO2 to the mesocom water so that it reached acidity levels expected in 20, 40, 60, 80 and 100 years, with two bags left as controls. They also added nutrients to simulate a natural plankton bloom, as reported in the Biogeosciences special issue.

The team found that, where CO2 was elevated, pico- and, to a lesser extent, nanoplankton grew, drawing down nutrients so there were less available to larger plankton. "The different responses we observed made it clear that the communities' sensitivity to acidification depends strongly on whether or not nutrients are available," Riebesell summarises.

"Time and [time] again the tiniest plankton benefits from the surplus CO2, they produce more biomass and more organic carbon, and dimethyl sulphide production and carbon export are decreasing," he concludes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Geosciences Union (EGU). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. U. Riebesell, J.-P. Gattuso, T. F. Thingstad, J. J. Middelburg. Preface "Arctic ocean acidification: pelagic ecosystem and biogeochemical responses during a mesocosm study". Biogeosciences, 2013; 10 (8): 5619 DOI: 10.5194/bg-10-5619-2013

Cite This Page:

European Geosciences Union (EGU). "Tiny plankton could have big impact on climate: CO2-hungry microbes might short-circuit the marine foodweb." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130913085756.htm>.
European Geosciences Union (EGU). (2013, September 13). Tiny plankton could have big impact on climate: CO2-hungry microbes might short-circuit the marine foodweb. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130913085756.htm
European Geosciences Union (EGU). "Tiny plankton could have big impact on climate: CO2-hungry microbes might short-circuit the marine foodweb." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130913085756.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

AFP (Nov. 23, 2014) The arable district of Kenema in Sierra Leone -- at the centre of the Ebola outbreak in May -- has been under quarantine for three months as the cocoa harvest comes in. Duration: 01:32 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Newsy (Nov. 22, 2014) For the first time Monterey Bay Aquarium recorded a video of the elusive, creepy and rarely seen anglerfish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Around the World Take Flight

Birds Around the World Take Flight

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 22, 2014) An imperial eagle equipped with a camera spreads its wings over London. It's just one of the many birds making headlines in this week's "animal roundup". Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
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