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How the Ocean Floor is Slowing Climate Change

Published on: 15th September, 2016 | Marine Science
Photo credit: Steve Clabuesch
The floor of the Antarctic ocean is brimming with life. Some of these micro organisms, phytoplankton and bryozoans may be working together to act as a carbon sink slowing climate change.

Whilst most people see forests as the most important aspect of the carbon cycle, they only cover one third of our planet. The ocean floor, covers the other two thirds and may be more important in climate responses.
Phytoplankton is a major food source for most organisms that live on the ocean floor, including bryozoans. These bryozoans are microscopic organisms that, by absorbing phytoplankton are able to hold large amounts of carbon. As they die, they are buried in the seabed, with the carbon in their skeletons eventually turning to rock, in a very similar way that plants are into coral.  

Dr Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey is examining how the level of phytoplankton in the ocean is related to the level of bryozoans and how these are influenced by the loss of sea ice.  

It not yet known how climate change will change the amount of carbon drawn down by these ocean dwelling creatures and if this is the case for all areas of sea ice.  

The original article ‘How tiny, underwater creatures are slowing climate change’ by Story Hinckley is available here: http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2015/0924/How-tiny-underwater-creatures-are-slowing-climate-change


Ryan Duchatel

REC Divemaster, OC & CCR TEC diver. PhD candidate in Experimental Pharmacology