However, can the oceans continue to alleviate the steady rise in atmospheric CO2 in the future? Current models for the development of the global climate system do not incorporate the reaction of marine organisms nor the processes that they influence.
Professor Ulf Riebesell, marine biologist at IFM-GEOMAR in Kiel and the first author of the study, gives insight into the motivation for the research: “We need to learn a lot more about the biology of the oceans, because the organisms play a decisive role in the carbon cycle. How do they affect the chemical balance and what are their responses to the enormous environmental changes we are currently experiencing?” The Nature publication provides new insights into these effects and their dimension.
To investigate the biological processes and their potential changes with time, the scientists made use of an unusual experimental set up in the Raunefjord in Norway. Here, a series of nine mesocosms, enclosures manufactured from a specialized synthetic material and measuring 10 meters in depth, were used to isolate 27 cubic meters of natural fjord water. In the experimental design, Ulf Riebesell and his team maintained three enclosures at current CO2 conditions as a control, while they infused CO2 in the remaining mesocosms to simulate predicted concentrations for the year 2100 and the year 2150. The critters in the mesocosms responded quickly to the extra serving of CO2.
The higher the concentration of dissolved carbon dioxide, the faster the microalgae incorporated the greenhouse gas via photosynthesis. Can CO2 act as a fertilizer in the ocean? The scientists measured an increased uptake of up to 39% compared to current rates. Ulf Riebesell describes the reaction of his team: “We expected the organisms to show distinct reactions to changing CO2 conditions. What really surprised us, however, was the dimension of this effect. Basically, we can now say that the biology in the oceans is significantly affecting the global climate system.” In the final step of the experiment, the scientists wanted to find out what happens with the rapidly proliferating biomass. Again the experiments in the Raunefjord provided insights: the extra CO2 bound in organic matter sank to depth after the peak of the algal bloom.
The CO2 fertilization of marine plankton can have a positive effect on climate change in the future. The greenhouse gas consumed by plankton and removed from the surface ocean when the dying cells sink to depth makes way for the uptake of more CO2. In a way, the tiny organisms act as a biological conveyer belt for the transport of carbon dioxide out of the surface and into the deep ocean. What appears to be a blessing for the atmospheric greenhouse effect may prove to be a curse for deep ocean ecosystems. Decomposition of the increased biomass will consume more oxygen, a major problem for marine animals that occupy deep habitats. Another consequence of the biological conveyer belt is the accelerated rate of ocean acidification in the deep ocean due to more rapid transport of CO2 to depth. The authors also expect direct affects on marine organisms based on previous observations. Planktonic crustaceans that were fed with CO2-enriched microalgae displayed slower growth rates and were less proliferous.
Ulf Riebesell remarks on the consequences of the study: „Our results probably represent only the tip of the iceberg. I am certain that scientists will discover further biological feedback mechanisms in the near future. It is essential not only to identify and to understand these mechanisms, but also to quantify their effect on the global climate system, now and in the future. “
The experiments in Bergen were conducted in the framework of the research program CARBOOCEAN, funded by the European Union.
*Enhanced biological carbon consumption in a high CO2 ocean. Ulf Riebesell1, Kai Schulz1, Richard Bellerby2,3, Mona Botros1, Peter Fritsche1, Michael Meyerhöfer1, Craig Neill2, Gisle Nondal2,3, Andreas Oschlies1, Julia Wohlers1 & Eckart Zöllner1.1.Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR) in Kiel, Germany
Andreas Villwock | alfa
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.
Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...
Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.
They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...
A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...
For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.
In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...
Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences
21.03.2018 | Life Sciences