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Tiny Climate Changers

Marine plankton

Ecological processes among microscopic marine plankton can influence chemical cycling processes that ultimately control climate at the global scale.

By Justin Seymour

Marine microorganisms have profound impacts on the chemical cycling processes that influence global climate. Now their behaviours and preferences have been captured on video.

Justin Seymour is a Research Fellow at the University of Technology, Sydney.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

They may not be as conspicuous as fish, sharks and whales, but microbes are by far the most abundant organisms in the ocean. A teaspoon of seawater typically contains more than one million bacteria, which equates to more than 1028 bacteria across the global ocean. These bacteria are also extremely diverse, with recent estimates suggesting that a single bucket of seawater will host more than 25,000 different bacterial species.

The ocean’s community of microorganisms also includes the zooplankton, which are microscopic animals that form the base of the marine food chain, and the phytoplankton, which are the microscopic algae responsible for approximately half of all photosynthesis on Earth.

This rich and diverse community of planktonic microbes represents the foundation of the marine food web, and is therefore essential for supporting the productivity and function of the entire ocean.

These microbes are also the driving force behind many of the ocean’s major chemical cycles, including the carbon, nitrogen and sulfur cycles, which are not only essential for the survival of all life in the ocean but have a strong and direct impact on global climate.

The Microbial Seascape
For more than 100 years, oceanographers have studied marine processes by embarking on surveys where measurements and observations are made across distances...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.