Warmer Oceans Equal Less Oxygen to Breathe


B. McPherson
Will whale poop save the world?
New research from the University of East Anglia paints a grim picture for animals if ocean temperatures continue to rise.

The world is heating up. Currently the average global temperature is about one degree Fahrenheit warmer than when records were starting to be kept. It doesn’t seem like much but nature’s systems are very finely tuned and a tiny change can have big repercussions.

Much of the Earth’s atmospheric oxygen is produced by one celled plants called plankton(phytoplankton). While they are releasing oxygen into the air, they are also grabbing carbon dioxide and incorporating it into their bodies. While many of these tiny creatures are eaten as part of the food chain, many simply die and fall to the ocean deeps. Their carbon then becomes sequestered.

As the temperature of the oceans increase, the phytoplankton becomes less efficient at removing CO2 from the air and releasing O2 for you, me and our animals to use. At the same time these one celled organisms may also give up their dominance to a different kind of plankton, one that does not release oxygen during its metabolism. Currently scientists estimate that about half of the oxygen that the world’s living things need is produced by these tiny creatures.

The computer models that the scientists ran show an increase in cyanobacteria and a decrease in oxygen producers. The delicate CO2 , Oxygen, Nitrogen cycles are predicted to become disrupted. Also the slowing of the plankton’s ability to sequester CO2 will speed the acidification of the water, which, in turn disrupts more organisms’ life cycles

"This will eventually lead to a greater prevalence of blue-green algae called cyanobacteria which fix atmospheric nitrogen," Science Daily

These one celled creatures store carbon out of the way so efficiently that in combination with tectonic plate movements the ooze is buried deep below the Earth’s surface. It is that ancient ocean ooze that we are now burning. It’s called oil.

Further Reading 

Original data published in journal nature climate change

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