The science community has been convinced for quite some time that the rising CO2 levels in the ocean are going to cause some permanent harm to the aquatic wildlife. However, what they did not expect was that the rising CO2 levels are cause for rapid plankton growth.
According to a study performed by Anand Gnanadesikan from the Johns Hopkins University, the same rapid increase in the ocean’s CO2 levels that was thought to soon destroy most types of plankton is actually the reason why a specific type of phytoplankton, coccolithophores, has seen rapidly increasing numbers in the past decades.
The data collected from 1965 to 2010 shows a massive increase in the numbers of the floating, pale, single cell organisms, with a particularly sharp rise since 1990.
Even though this may sound like good news, scientists say that they have no idea how this change will affect the planet. Sure, animals that eat plankton could see a rise in their numbers, since additional food is suddenly being provided, but that would also mean a potential rise in the numbers of their predators.
And since predators don’t usually stick to only one type of pray, it could even lead to a decrease or even the extinction of other aquatic animals. This is, of course, just speculation, since the scientists are baffled by the occurrence.
The phytoplankton in question, coccolithophores, have a distinct ability that makes it both useful and problematic at the same time. The single celled organisms absorb the carbon in the atmosphere and create bunched of white disks around them. These white disks, made from calcium carbonate, or chalk, are what give the plankton its distinct pale appearance.
They tend to live in the upper levels of the ocean, and when they are not consumed by the occasional animal, they make it more difficult for CO2 to leave the atmosphere. However, on the long term, they themselves consume and thus remove the atmosphere’s CO2, gaining their white appearance.
This is yet another concerning issue cause by the recent enormous increase in the CO2 levels we produce, alongside global warming, and we are yet to figure out what exactly this change in sea life will entail.
Be it good or bad, we are responsible for it, and maybe, just maybe, with enough public attention brought to the subject, more people will be made aware of the destructive way in which we keep affecting our environment.
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