An alarming rise has been witnessed in the population of small microscopic organism plankton. Evaluation of data of Continuous Plankton Recorder has led researchers to find a 10-fold increase in single-cell coccolithophores’ population between 1965 and 2010. Many have been linking the rise in the population to the increase in the level of carbon dioxide in the oceans.
A more widely accepted idea, however, is that over the long term coccolithophores contribute to an overall decrease in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. During calcification two carbon atoms are taken up and one of them becomes trapped as calcium carbonate. This calcium carbonate sinks to the bottom of the ocean in the form of coccoliths and becomes part of sediment; thus, coccolithophores provide a sink for emitted carbon, mediating the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.
Increased CO2 means increased permanent carbon segregation in sediment.
The study co-author continues, “We never expected to see the relative abundance of coccolithophores to increase 10 times in the North Atlantic over barely half a century. If anything, we expected that these sensitive calcifying algae would have decreased in the face of increasing ocean acidification (associated with increasing carbon dioxide entering the ocean from the burning of fossil-fuels). Instead, we see how these carbon-limited organisms appear to be using the extra carbon from CO2 to increase their relative abundance by an order of magnitude.”
Furthermore, Dr. Balch tells, “This provides one example on how marine communities across an entire ocean basin are responding to increasing carbon dioxide levels. Such real-life examples of the impact of increasing CO2 on marine food webs are important to point out as the world comes together in Paris next week at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.”
Why do I think the message isn’t going to be “don’t worry so much lads”?