Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Impact of Climate Change on Phytoplankton

There is an unambiguous relationship between increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as a direct result of human activity and the increasing acidification of the oceans. This results from a well known chemical principle that carbonic dioxide (CO2) when dissolved in water (H2O) forms carbonic acid (H2CO3). This acidification has been implicated in the destruction of coral.

In a recent report in the journal Science, Doctor D. Shi from the Department of Geosciences at Princeton University has established a correlation between increasing acidity in the oceans and increased stress on phytoplankton. Phytoplankton is a fundamental part of the food web in the world’s oceans and, therefore, plays a key role in the life of the oceans. In addition they account for one-half of all oxygen production as a result of photosynthesis on the planet.

Doctor Shi and his colleagues have shown that acidification of the ocean places stress on phytoplankton populations by impacting the bioavailability of Iron. Iron plays a pivotal role in the metabolism of these organisms. This particular consequence of the ever increasing level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is certainly a cause for concern.

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