In an alarming exposure, scientists have cautioned against rising ocean temperatures as they say this will upset natural cycles of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and phosphorous.
The study from the University of East Anglia shows that water temperature has a direct impact on maintaining the delicate plankton ecosystem of our oceans.
The planktons play a significant role in the carbon cycle of water body by removing half of all carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis and storing it deep under the sea. Phytoplankton is microscopic plant-like organisms that rely on photosynthesis to reproduce and grow.
According to the study, the warming of oceans will impact plankton and this in turn will drive a vicious cycle of climate change.
“Phytoplankton, including micro-algae, are responsible for half of the carbon dioxide that is naturally removed from the atmosphere. As well as being vital to climate control, it also creates enough oxygen for every other breath we take, and forms the base of the food chain for fisheries so it is incredibly important for food security,” lead researcher Dr Thomas Mock, said.
“Previous studies have shown that phytoplankton communities respond to global warming by changes in diversity and productivity. But with our study we show that warmer temperatures directly impact the chemical cycles in plankton, which has not been shown before,” said Mock.
The researchers developed computer generated models to create a global ecosystem model and studied the world ocean temperatures. About 1.5 million plankton DNA sequences were taken from samples and biochemical data.
“We found that temperature plays a critical role in driving the cycling of chemicals in marine micro-algae. It affects these reactions as much as nutrients and light, which was not known before,” said Mock.
“Under warmer temperatures, marine micro-algae do not seem to produce as many ribosomes as under lower temperatures. Ribosomes join up the building blocks of proteins in cells. They are rich in phosphorous and if they are being reduced, this will produce higher ratios of nitrogen compared to phosphorous, increasing the demand for nitrogen in the oceans.
“This will eventually lead to a greater prevalence of blue-green algae called cyanobacteria which fix atmospheric nitrogen,” he added.
The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.