Whales, dolphins, fish, seabirds, crabs and other creatures that live in or near the ocean have phytoplankton to thank for their existence. This is a one-celled organism that lives near the surface of the ocean. Scientists called phytoplankton oceanic biological productivity because they support the lives of fish, plants and wildlife.
Jorge Sarmiento is a professor of atmospheric and ocean sciences. He works at Princeton University, which is located in New Jersey. He stated that the net amount of carbon dioxide taken in measures oceanic productivity. Phytoplankton use energy from the sun in order to convert nutrients and carbon dioxide into organic compounds. This will create new plant material.
Herbivorous water creatures consume the phytoplankton. The carnivores will then eat the herbivores. The food chain will continue until it reaches the top predators, which are sharks and whales. This raises an important question. How does the phytoplankton support everything else that lives in or near the ocean?
Robert Frouin, who is a research meteorologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, aims to answer that question. He stated that understanding this process will help people understand the link between global climate and ocean. Robert said that marine processes influence and respond to the climate. If there is a change in the phytoplankton species and abundance, then the processes that control sunlight availability and nutrients may also change.
The Supply of Oxygen
There are two things that phytoplankton require for survival. They need nutrients from the water and energy from the sun. The phytoplankton absorbs energy and nutrients across their cell walls. Phytoplankton makes food via a process called photosynthesis. Oxygen is released into the water during this process.
Fifty percent of the oxygen in the world is produced via phytoplankton photosynthesis. The rest of the oxygen is produced via photosynthesis from grasses, shrubs and trees. When plants sink to the bottom of the ocean or fall to the ground, a small portion of the carbon is buried.
The buried carbon will release oxygen into the air. That is why we have a lot of oxygen in the atmosphere today.
The Carbon Sink
The ocean and forests are not giving off my oxygen or taking in more carbon dioxide. However, human activities have caused more carbon dioxide to be released into the environment. This includes things such as burning coal and oil for heat and driving. Scientists also believe that increasing the amount of carbon dioxide is causing the Earth to warm up.
They believe that this can have catastrophic consequences. Researchers believe that if the oceans are enriched with iron, then this can capture the excess carbon. However, some people believe that this will not be enough to fight climate change.
In fact, studies done by Robert Fruin suggest that this can cause the Earth to warm up even more. It will increase air temperature and surface temperature. It is also important to note that phytoplankton absorbs the majority of its carbon dioxide from the ocean. It doesn’t come from the atmosphere.