Phytoplankton Population in Danger with Increasing Acidification of Oceans

Phytoplankton maybe at the bottom of the food chain, but they are extremely vital for our ecosystem. Recent research has revealed how plankton which float on the surface of the oceans generate gases/aerosols which interact with the atmosphere producing more iridescent, reflective clouds which help cool our planet. Unfortunately, these tiny creatures are now dwindling due to increasing ocean acidification. Global warming, it turns out, is a vicious cycle.

Continued absorption of increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the air is having a notable effect on the oceanic ecosystem, particularly on the phytoplankton.

A study published in the Nature Climate Change journal done by researchers at MIT is bringing about a new outlook on the ocean. The scientists developed several models to predict global warming and the effects it would have on the planet. One of the models looked at the acidification of the ocean in particular. The model and further research has shown that the ocean has absorbed up to 30 percent of the carbon dioxide that humans have released into the atmosphere.

The ocean constantly absorbing carbon dioxide slowly–though consistently–raises its pH levels. This conflicts with the survival of many microorganisms. The organisms are not accustomed to the higher pH levels, and they will suffer from the increase.

Many phytoplankton species will be over-saturated with the carbon dioxide and will begin to die out, leading to a massive drop in plankton population. Studies show that there are actually a few species of plankton that would flourish in high levels of pH, but that would also be bad, as those particular species play a different role in the ecosystem, and would invade certain habitats if their numbers grew.

A drop in plankton population is significantly worse than it sounds. One of the largest parts that plankton play in the ecosystem is to be a food source for various creatures. Obviously, they are at the bottom of the food chain, so they essentially feed everything in the ocean. Everything in the ocean would suffer from the drop in plankton.



  1. William Diedrich says

    As the ocean gets more acidic (or less base for those of you who are fussy), the ph DECREASES. The phytoplankton also are more than the base of the ocean food chain – they also produce a significant fraction of the oxygen we breath.

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