According To New Study, Dust Absorbed By Phytoplankton Benefits Them
Carbon prevention or carbon capture?
A significant amount of the conversation surrounding climate change concerns the release of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. While this is important, the priority is most concerned with reducing or eliminating fossil fuel emissions.
While achieving this goal is paramount in creating a clean, eco-friendly world, the topic of carbon sequestration has been under the radar until recently. When most think of carbon sequestration, they imagine carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology or think of trees.
Both are valuable and productive carbon sequesters; however, they are not the only areas or mechanisms useful for reducing carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Our world’s oceans are single-handedly the largest carbon sinks we have, and many marine organisms participate in this important process.
Phytoplankton makes up an important role in carbon deposition onto the ocean floor. In recent years, they have been thriving due to mass amounts of dust being created and deposited.
Carbon sinks and carbon eaters.
In the ocean, there are multitudes of different organisms sequestering carbon. Seagrass is one of the largest carbon sequesters and provides large habitats for other fish and marine animals to thrive in.
However, despite the outsize role that some marine organisms play in carbon sequestration, phytoplankton also makes up a key role.
Phytoplankton generally pulls up their nutrients from the ocean and use those nutrients to turn carbon dioxide into organic matter, which then gets deposited back onto the ocean floor.
Due to climate change-induced wildfires and natural disasters, phytoplankton have been thriving in recent years. According to a new study published in Science Magazine and led by Toby Westberry out of Oregon State University, there is a direct correlation between the amount of dust being brought into the ocean and the numbers and health of phytoplankton in the area.
They used satellite imaging to observe the differences in the coloration of the water before and after a major dust storm or wildfire occurred. They noticed that the water in the affected areas began to turn green, indicating larger numbers of phytoplankton.
The researchers also found that depending on the altitude of the marine environment, there is an observed difference in the health and numbers of phytoplankton. In lower altitude areas, there were fewer phytoplankton despite being healthy, and in higher altitude areas, there were more phytoplankton as well as being more healthy.
It all adds up.
Phytoplankton, while important, doesn’t make up as much of an impact on climate sequestration as one might hope. This is because dust-related phytoplankton growth only makes up 4.5% of the global yearly carbon dioxide absorbed by the ocean. Though, in some areas, the amount of carbon absorbed can reach highs of 40% of the total amount.
Nonetheless, It is important to be aware of the multitudes of different ways carbon sequestration can occur. These systems are large and complex and take up many different forms. To address the issue of storing carbon and removing it from our atmosphere, we must understand it won’t be a “one-size-fits-all” approach that is successful. It will take multiple different mechanisms working together and complementing each other to save our world. Phytoplankton, it seems, will be playing an important role in this.
Source Happy Eco NewsJune 7, 2023