Academic journal article Science and Children

Plankton Remove Carbon from the Atmosphere

Academic journal article Science and Children

Plankton Remove Carbon from the Atmosphere

Article excerpt

The ocean's power to rein in carbon and protect the environment is vast but not well understood. But now, an international team of scientists has begun to illuminate how the ocean plucks carbon from the atmosphere, where it contributes to global warming, and shuttles it to the bottom of the sea.

The new study establishes the important role of plankton networks in removing carbon from the atmosphere and depositing it deep in the ocean. It also opens opportunities for caring for the ocean in ways that encourage it to absorb more carbon.

For decades, scientists have sought to study a community, such as the ocean, on a genetic level and to use that information to make larger measurements of complex communities and predict how the ecosystem works.

This study measured microbes such as viruses and bacteria and determined which microbes are most closely linked with the downward movement of carbon in the ocean. Phytoplankton, plants in the sea, are known to be able to take carbon from the atmosphere and carry it deep into the ocean, but had yet to be studied.

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This new work employed cameras to capture images of organisms at different depths of the ocean to better identify sinking patterns for all plankton. These measurements enabled the researchers to determine which phytoplankton best predict the movement of carbon from the ocean's surface to the deep sea. …

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