New research shows that marine algae may be better able to cope with climate change than we thought.
Marine algae in the form of phytoplankton (microscopic plants) is important not only because it forms the basis of the ocean food web, but also because it absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and generates oxygen.
To study its reaction to rising carbon dioxide levels, researchers from University of Edinburgh grew phytoplankton in tanks at high levels predicted for the end of the century. Some were kept at a constant level, while others experienced fluctuations of CO2 levels.
Researchers found that, compared with the phytoplankton grown under consistent CO2 levels, the phytoplankton grown under fluctuating levels was better able to cope with changing ocean conditions. However, the they were smaller than the phytoplankton grown under stable conditions.
“Predicting how populations of ocean algae will respond to changing ocean conditions is difficult, but these results suggest that populations from highly changeable environments are better placed to deal with additional environmental change than previously suspected,” Dr. Sinead Collins or the School of Biological Sciences said in a news release.
Overall, these findings suggest that marine algae may be better able to adapt to climate change than previously thought, which may impact how well marine life can feed off of it and how efficiently it takes CO2 out of the atmosphere.
To learn more:
- Read the full news release: Algae to cope well in climate change.
- Read the study abstract: Environmental stability affects phenotypic evolution in a globally distributed marine picoplankton.
Copyright © 2015 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.