Monday, August 2, 2010

Half the Oxygen We Breathe

We have been discussing the impact of global warming on the oceans. The recent report that 40% of the ocean's phytoplankton has disappeared since the 1950s is certainly alarming, but in a kind of distant, second-hand way. "Gee, isn't it too bad that so many ocean fish and plants are dying. Guess we'll have to get our food from some other source. It's a good thing we have salmon farming." Or some other such blasé response, like the disappearance phytoplankton is rather tragic but not something that will affect our immediate well-being.

Until you realize that ocean phytoplankton produce HALF THE OXYGEN WE BREATHE. Ok? Think about that next time you get in the car and switch on the ignition.

from the press release:

The findings contribute to a growing body of scientific evidence indicating that global warming is altering the fundamentals of marine ecosystems. Says co-author Marlon Lewis, "Climate-driven phytoplankton declines are another important dimension of global change in the oceans, which are already stressed by the effects of fishing and pollution. Better observational tools and scientific understanding are needed to enable accurate forecasts of the future health of the ocean." Explains co-author Boris Worm, "Phytoplankton are a critical part of our planetary life support system. They produce half of the oxygen we breathe, draw down surface CO2, and ultimately support all of our fisheries. An ocean with less phytoplankton will function differently, and this has to be accounted for in our management efforts."

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