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Back You are here: Home Politics Ocean plankton storing more carbon than originally thought – U.C. - Irvine


Ocean plankton storing more carbon than originally thought – U.C. - Irvine

The world’s ocean plays an even more vital role as carbon storage centers than previously thought, according to a study by the University of California – Irvine.

The researchers found that plankton forum near the surface of warm waters are far more carbon-rich than has long been thought and global marine temperature fluctuations could mean these microorganisms digest double the carbon previously calculated.

The researchers were studying a decade-old core principle of marine science known as the Redfield ratio. In 1934, oceanographer Alfred Redfield concluded that from the top to the world’s oceans to its depths, both plankton and the materials they excrete contain the same ration of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous (106: 16: 1).

However, they discovered contradictory ration of elements in different marine locations. Several expeditions were made to gather water from the Bering Sea, the North Atlantic near Denmark, mild Caribbean waters and elsewhere. Aboard the research vessel, the sample waters we analyzed at the molecular level.

They ascertained that there were higher levels of carbon in warm, nutrient-starved areas (195:28:1) near the equator than in cold, nutrient-rich polar zones (78:13:1).

“The Redfield concept remains a central tenet in ocean biology and chemistry. However, we clearly show that the nutrient content ratio in plankton is not constant and thus reject this longstanding central theory for ocean science,” said lead author Adam Martiny, associate professor of Earth system science and ecology and evolutionary biology at U.C.-Irvine.

Carbon captured by marine living organism form what are known as blue carbon sinks and account for 71 percent of all carbon storage in the oceans. Nurturing the oceans ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide could be important in climate mitigation measures.

Another recent example of the unforeseen benefits that a balanced ocean ecosystem could have on the climate was the findings of the University of Santa Cruz that showed that sea otter populations and healthy kelp forests could increase ocean carbon storage (see related story). – EcoSeed Staff

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