There was less phytoplankton in the oceans than scientists expected. This means that its role in the absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans is lower than expected – and global warming may occur faster than predicted. This is stated by a study by scientists from NASA, published in the journal International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal.
Oceans are responsible for the absorption of most of the carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere as a result of burning fossil fuels and other processes. Until now, scientists believed that phytoplankton, the microscopic organisms that use it in photosynthesis, are directly responsible for the absorption of CO2.
When the ocean absorbs atmospheric carbon dioxide, phytoplankton uses CO 2 and sunlight for photosynthesis: organisms convert these ingredients into sugars, which cells can use to produce energy while producing oxygen.
In the new work, the researchers analyzed the measurement data on ships and aircraft, as well as satellite and ocean sensors to refine the annual cycles of migration and reproduction of phytoplankton. In particular, they investigated the mechanism of the flowering of phytoplankton – the period when organisms absorb the largest amount of carbon dioxide.
An analysis of the data showed that in reality the ocean has much less phytoplankton than previously thought – this means that existing climate models may be too optimistic, and global warming is faster than scientists believe.