SEP 04, 2015 2:44 PM PDT

Climate Change Troubles Marine Microbes

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
Ocean acidification caused by climate change is a serious threat.  Excess carbon dioxide combines with ocean water to produce carbonic acid, which impacts numerous marine organisms, including bacteria.  David Hutchins of the University of Southern California, in collaboration with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, reports that the growth of the marine bacterium Trichodesmium is significantly altered by conditions that mimic ocean acidification. 
 
Trichodesmium fixes nitrogen for use by other marine organisms.
 
Trichodesmium (Tricho, for short) is a filamentous cyanobacterium found in numerous marine waters, including the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.  It is sometimes called “sea sawdust”, named for the large brown blooms it forms on the ocean surface.  Cyanobacteria produce energy through photosynthesis, but Tricho also fixes atmospheric nitrogen into ammonium, which can be used by other organisms.  This makes it a crucial member of the marine ecosystem.  (Unlike most bacteria, these cells are up to 4 mm long, making them visible to the naked eye!) 
 
Trichodesmium blooms are referred to as
In their study, published in Nature Communications, Hutchins and colleagues grew Tricho under conditions that mimicked the climate changes predicted for the year 2100.  Unexpectedly, these conditions drove Tricho to increase its nitrogen consumption by nearly 50%.  The bacteria also increased their growth rates and, as a result, nutrient consumption went up. 
 
The most striking finding was that these “adaptations” were permanent.  If other microbes react to climate change in the same way, marine organisms could be starved for nutrients.  According to Hutchins, “losing the ability to regulate your growth rate is not a healthy thing … the last thing you want is to be stuck with these high growth rates when there aren’t enough nutrients to go around.  It’s a losing strategy in the struggle to survive”.
 

 
 
Sources: University of Southern California, Eurekalert, Nature Communications, MicrobeWiki, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
About the Author
  • Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
You May Also Like
DEC 03, 2019
Earth & The Environment
DEC 03, 2019
Small forests provide key ecosystem services
Due to human expansion in agriculture and livestock, logging, gas and oil exploration, and infrastructure expansion, forests today are more fragmented than...
DEC 17, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 17, 2019
Watch Seals Band Together to Scare a Great White Shark Away
Great white sharks are rather renowned for being massive and merciless predators of the ocean, and among their favorite prey are fur seals, which are rich...
JAN 08, 2020
Cardiology
JAN 08, 2020
Insecticides Linked to Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Death
New research from the University of Iowa has shown that prolonged exposure to common household insecticides may increase one’s risk for developing ca...
JAN 05, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JAN 05, 2020
Frozen rivers on the decline
A study entitled, "The past and future of global river ice," is the first comprehensive study to quantify temporal shifts in river ice cover on s...
JAN 21, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JAN 21, 2020
Scientists Assess GHG Emissions Related to Palm Oil Land Conversion
Palm oil production remains problematic in several ways, and a new study from researchers at the University of Nottingham has quantified one of these probl...
FEB 04, 2020
Plants & Animals
FEB 04, 2020
Different Predators Work Together to Corral a Swarm of Sardines
When large schools of sardines materialize in the oceans, it can be a spectacular sight. In some cases, however, the sight can be so spectacular that it me...
Loading Comments...