by Alli Gold Roberts (MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change)
Read this story at MIT News
Phytoplankton — small plant-like organisms that serve as the base of the marine ecosystem — play a crucial role in maintaining the health of our oceans by consuming carbon dioxide and fueling the food web. But with a changing climate, which of these vital organisms will survive, and what impact will their demise have on fish higher up the chain?
Stephanie Dutkiewicz, a researcher with the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, and her colleagues developed a model that investigates the potential effects of climate change on phytoplankton.
Ice-core measurements reveal a highly asymmetric cycle in Antarctic temperature and atmospheric CO2 over the last 800,000 years. Both CO2 and temperature decrease over 100,000 years going into a glacial period, then rise steeply over less than 10,000 years at the end of a glacial. There does not yet exist wide agreement about the causes of this cycle or about the origin of its shape. In this article, recently accepted in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles, Darwin researchers Anne Wilem Omta, Mick Follows and co-authors, explore the possibility that an ecologically driven oscillator may play a role in the dynamics.
Dutkiewicz, S., J.R. Scott and M.J. Follows (2013), Winners and losers: Ecological and biogeochemical changes in a warming ocean, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, vol. 27, pp. 463, doi: 10.1002/gbc.20042