Global warming won’t harm plankton, which most ocean life depends on for food, according to a new study published online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study found that since plankton travel around the world on ocean currents, they endure temperature changes that are far more rapid and far larger than those predicted by even the most dramatic models of global warming. The research estimates that temperatures in the Indian Ocean can range from 5 to 20 degrees Celsius, while global warming models only predict a few degrees of temperature increase in the ocean over the next century.
“There has been much recent interest in the future of coral reefs, because of their role in supporting biodiversity. But drifting plankton, that are invisible to the naked eye, are responsible for half the Earth’s oxygen and for global fisheries yields, and are therefore important in providing other essential ecosystem services,” Dr. Martina Doblin the study’s lead author and a professor at the University of Technology Sydney, wrote in a press statement. “Our results suggest that the effects of climate change on ocean plankton will need to be re-evaluated to take this into account.”
The study used a computer model of global ocean circulation to simulate how three million virtual plankton follow the world’s ocean currents and the temperatures they are subjected to.
The research is important because plankton are the foundation of the ocean’s food chain, and previous research from 2012 suggested that they could be adversely affected by global warming.
The new study is the latest to show that nature is considerably more resilient to global warming than scientists suspected. Global warming has even had positive environmental impacts like helping Canadian trees recover from a devastating insect infestation, literally causing deserts to bloom with foliage and helping the Alaskan Moose.
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