As Seas Warm, Essential Micro Plants Could Decline

Phytoplankton (a.k.a. tiny marine plants) produce half the planet’s food and there are signs that their numbers are plummeting as the seas warm, according to a recent article in the magazine New Scientists.

 “[Phytoplankton] are a big part of the planet’s life-support system. If phytoplankton decline, that threatens the food base of a vast part of the biosphere,” says Dalhousie University marine biologist Boris Worm, who’s researching decades of data. “There’s less fuel in the tank of the machinery of life, and you just don’t get as far.”

The abundance of phytoplankton appears to be on the decline since the 1940’s, according to satellite readings of phytoplankton conducted by Dr. Worm and Oregon State University Professor Michael Behrenfeld. The authors point to ocean warming that is increasing stratification of waters and reducing access to nutrients from the deeper waters for the creatures that depend on these nutrients for survival.

Learn more about Heal the Bay’s climate change initiatives.