JAN 29, 2020 11:14 AM PST

New Study Suggests Phytoplankton Will Thrive, not Decline

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

Based on current Earth models, which project warming seas and nutrient depletion, scientists widely believe that phytoplankton biomass will decline in the future. However, a new study from scientists at the University of Irvine (UCI) surprisingly shows that some phytoplankton populations may expand by the end of this century. The results of this research were published this week in Nature: Geoscience.

According to the study, most existing models did not capture the high diversity of the phytoplankton world. Additionally, scientists traditionally based phytoplankton biomass projections on the presence or absence of chlorophyll in the water. However, according to senior author and UCI professor Adam Martiny, “the problem is that chlorophyll is not everything that’s in a cell, and actually, in low latitudes, many plankton are characterized as having a very small amount of it."

These discrepancies and more led Martiny and UCI oceanographers to conduct their own phytoplankton census. According to a news release from UCI, the team analyzed samples from more than 10,000 locations around the world to create a global synthesis of the main phytoplankton groups in warm regions. They discovered that the majority of phytoplankton species are tiny picophytoplankton—the less well-known but much more abundant type of plankton. The researchers estimate that picophytoplankton makes up 80 to 90% of plankton biomass in warmer areas.

Then, the research team assessed the global biogeography of these plankton types by analyzing a global abundance dataset with a neural-network-derived quantitative niche model. As stated by Martiny, “these sorts of artificial intelligence tools can help us challenge existing paradigms,” such as the one discovered through this process. The team surprisingly found that at the end of this century, in many regions, there would be an increase of 10 to 20% plankton biomass, not a decline as previously thought.

A key feature of the picophytoplankton life cycle includes nutrient recycling of dead plankton. The research team theorizes that at higher temperatures, living plankton may more easily recycle nutrients from dead plankton back into the biomass. In the UCI article, Martiny states that this study further illustrates the “variability and resilience of phytoplankton,” the basis of which entire marine ecosystems are dependent.

Sources: UCI, Nature Geoscience
 

About the Author
  • Tiffany grew up in Southern California, where she attended San Diego State University. She graduated with a degree in Biology with a marine emphasis, thanks to her love of the ocean and wildlife. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, she now works as a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.
You May Also Like
AUG 06, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Your Coffee Could be Harming the Oceans
AUG 06, 2021
Your Coffee Could be Harming the Oceans
Caffeine is one of the most widely consumed psychoactive drugs in the world. Approximately sixty plant species produce c ...
AUG 09, 2021
Earth & The Environment
New Pterosaur Fossil discovered in Australia
AUG 09, 2021
New Pterosaur Fossil discovered in Australia
Pterosaur fossils have been discovered in all corners of the globe since their first discovery in Kansas in the 1700s. S ...
SEP 27, 2021
Infographics
What is the Future of Solar Energy?
SEP 27, 2021
What is the Future of Solar Energy?
Solar energy prices have significantly dropped in the last few decades due to advances in technology and government ince ...
SEP 28, 2021
Earth & The Environment
How to Save the World's Coral Reefs? Global Reforestation
SEP 28, 2021
How to Save the World's Coral Reefs? Global Reforestation
With recent news of the world's coral supply standing at just 50% of what it was in the 1950s, any strategies for protec ...
OCT 18, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
New Climatic Data from China Sheds Light on the Emergence of the Dinosaurs
OCT 18, 2021
New Climatic Data from China Sheds Light on the Emergence of the Dinosaurs
The climate is hot and muggy with the world's oceans as hot as a sauna. Also, it just started raining and it will not st ...
OCT 18, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Bugs Tell Scientists How Polluted Waters Are
OCT 18, 2021
Bugs Tell Scientists How Polluted Waters Are
Water quality changes all over the globe as humans change land use and develop communities near water. The increase in t ...
Loading Comments...