Saturday, December 9, 2006

Phytoplankton on the Decline

NASA Scientists, with the help of the orbiting Sea-Viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS), have been charting some distressing data since 1997. SeaWIFS has been witnessing a strong decline in global levels of phytoplankton, the microscopic base of the marine food chain which also absorbs, and converts into oxygen, about half of the planet's greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. The tiny phytoplankton prefer cooler water, and as sea temperatures rise, they simply cannot survive. What does this all mean? As levels of carbon dioxide rise, the temperatures of the earth and its oceans rise. It becomes a vicious cycle, with phytoplankton dying off in huge numbers and becoming incapable of maintaining stable levels of o2 and co2 in our atmosphere. This causes the co2 levels, and global temperatures, to rise even more, resulting in greater losses of the crucial phytoplankton. This may not appear immediately over the whole planet. The tropical oceans will take the biggest hit, while the oceans around the poles may get greener. Consequent shifts in food for local ocean wildlife are expected to be dramatic.

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