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
Plant seeds survive machine washing - Dispersal of invasive plants with clothes
11.09.2018 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.
Air pollution leads to cardiovascular diseases
21.08.2018 | Universitätsmedizin der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
The building blocks of matter in our universe were formed in the first 10 microseconds of its existence, according to the currently accepted scientific picture. After the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, matter consisted mainly of quarks and gluons, two types of elementary particles whose interactions are governed by quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of strong interaction. In the early universe, these particles moved (nearly) freely in a quark-gluon plasma.
This is a joint press release of University Muenster and Heidelberg as well as the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt.
Then, in a phase transition, they combined and formed hadrons, among them the building blocks of atomic nuclei, protons and neutrons. In the current issue of...
Thin-film solar cells made of crystalline silicon are inexpensive and achieve efficiencies of a good 14 percent. However, they could do even better if their shiny surfaces reflected less light. A team led by Prof. Christiane Becker from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has now patented a sophisticated new solution to this problem.
"It is not enough simply to bring more light into the cell," says Christiane Becker. Such surface structures can even ultimately reduce the efficiency by...
A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica.
Scientists established the new species, Thesea dalioi, by comparing its physical traits, such as branch thickness and the bright red colony color, with the...
Scientists have succeeded in observing the first long-distance transfer of information in a magnetic group of materials known as antiferromagnets.
An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome, providing the research community with an invaluable resource to decode the response of fish to...
03.09.2018 | Event News
27.08.2018 | Event News
17.08.2018 | Event News
21.09.2018 | Trade Fair News
21.09.2018 | Earth Sciences
21.09.2018 | Health and Medicine