They're called coccolithophores, and their rise in the oceans has this amazing tie to global warming.
There’s been a boom in a type of algae in the North Atlantic — and it has big implications for climate change.
Scientists have found that phytoplankton have been thriving in the North Atlantic, something that has been surprising as it had been thought that global warming would have increased ocean acidity and resulted a decline in plankton species, according to a Christian Science Monitor report.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that there was a ten-fold increase in one specific type of single-celled algae: coccolithophores, which have a limestone shell and have been found throughout the world’s oceans in the last five decades, with a huge spike since the late 1990s. That’s a strange discovery for these scientists.
The study found that higher carbon dioxide levels in the oceans on planet Earth may be resulting in the increase in coccolithophores. It’s an indication that the consequences of climate change and huge carbon emissions are starting to show themselves already, the researchers said.
But it’s not happening in the way they thought. Scientists had expected ocean acidification because of the higher carbon dioxide levels would cause such organisms to decline, but they aren’t. Instead, coccolithophores have been thriving.
And that’s actually bad news, as it may be a “canary in the coal mine” that CO2 levels are starting to have tremendous effects on the planet.
“The CPR survey is a continuing study of plankton, floating organisms that form a vital part of the marine food chain,” the press release stated. “The project was launched by a British marine biologist in the North Atlantic and North Sea in the early 1930s. It is conducted by commercial ships trailing mechanical plankton-gathering contraptions through the water as they sail their regular routes. William M. Balch of the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine, a co-author of the study, said scientists might have expected that ocean acidity due to higher carbon dioxide would suppress these chalk-shelled organisms. It didn’t. On the other hand, their increasing abundance is consistent with a history as a marker of environmental change.”