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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Phytoplankton in decline


Image:The image above is a copepod, family Eucalanidae
[Scottish Association for Marine Science image]


"Microscopic marine algae called phytoplankton that produce half the world's oxygen and
 support most ocean life have been declining dramatically over the past century,
Canadian researchers say."We should be very concerned … it's extremely disturbing,"
said Daniel Boyce, lead author of the study published Wednesday in Nature."
"The study found that the world is losing an average of one per cent
of its phytoplankton each year  and the northern hemisphere has lost roughly 40
 per cent since 1950."



The link to the study at Nature.com is

Here are some of the key facts about phytoplankton:

Phytoplankton are the autotrophic component of the plankton community. The name comes
 from the Greek words φυτόν (phyton), meaning "plant", and πλαγκτός (planktos), meaning
 "wanderer" or "drifter".
(source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytoplankton ).Phytoplankton account for half 
of all photosynthetic activity on Earth.Thus phytoplankton are responsible for much of 
the oxygen present in the Earth's atmosphere – half of the total amount produced by all 
plant life.[3] Their cumulative energy fixation in carbon compounds (primary production)
 is the basis for the vast majority of oceanic and also many freshwater food webs
Phytoplankton serve as the base of the aquatic food web, providing an essential 
ecological function for all aquatic life (source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytoplankton )

Phytoplankton "are the producers in a food chain, Autotrophs can reduce carbon dioxide
 (add hydrogen to it) to make organic compounds. The reduction of carbon dioxide, a low-energy compound, creates a store of chemical energy."Autotrophs are fundamental to the food chains of all ecosystems in the world. They take energy from the environment in the form of sunlight or
 inorganic chemicals and use it to create energy-rich molecules such as carbohydrates. 
This mechanism is called primary production. Other organisms, called heterotrophs,
 take in autotrophs as food to carry out functions necessary for their life. Thus, heterotrophs — 
all animals, almost all fungi, as well as most bacteria and protozoa — depend on autotrophs
 for the energy and raw materials they need."

Phytoplankton are called "the great meadow of the sea." Billions and billions of 
very small living cells  floating near the surface of the ocean where they use
 sunlight to make 
molecules of stored energy and building material for themselves and for animals
 to use. These cells are
 mostly algae and blue-green algae."
  (source:http://www.ftexploring.com/me/pyramid.html)

"Plankton, both plant (phytoplankton) and animal (zooplankton) are at the lowest level
 of the food chain in marine ecosystems, and constitute a vital food-source for
 higher-level organisms."

What are the implications of the loss of Phytoplankton in the Earth's oceans?

Firstly, according to the article which was posted online at The Globe and Mail  Website:

 while I was writing this blog entry:

"Curtis Suttle, a professor of earth and ocean sciences at the University of British 
Columbia. “Undoubtedly, (the decline in phytoplankton populations in the 
world oceans)  have implications in terms of how oceanic food webs
 are structured, and that could have impacts on fisheries).”

Secondly, “This is a definite wake-up call that our oceans are becoming increasingly
 stressed and this is another indicator of that,” said lead author Daniel Boyce,
 a marine ecologist and doctoral student at Dalhousie. “It’s quite shocking to think 
that there’s been a 40-per-cent decline at the base of the food chain over the past 
50 years. I think it’s absolutely cause for concern."

Here is an interesting 6 minute video which discusses what Phytoplankton are,
what their requirements are, and how they survive:
source of video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSPxXCq9krU
Thank you to the Open University for posting this video to Youtube and thank
you for allowing me to use this video on my blog!



Here is a link to a short video entitled,
"Phytoplankton Makes Life Possible on Earth":

http://www.redorbit.com/news/video/science/5/phytoplankton_makes_life_possible
_on_earth/25893/

To see a  4 minute and 44 second video entitled:
Ways to Save the Planet: Phytoplankton Video at YourDiscovery.com
click on the link above this line.

In the following video which is 5 minutes and 52 seconds in length,Dr. Jeffrey Krause explains the potential effect of global climate change on the ocean's phytoplankton during the CLIMECO Summer School, Brest France 2008 
source:http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6725016625194205587#



Let us hope scientists can determine why a decline in Phytoplankton in the Earth's oceans is occurring,
and if this decline is linked to human activity, that we all are willing to change our behavior to prevent
this decline from occurring. We better or our species and all life on the planet may be irreversibly
and adversely affected!

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Thoughts worth thinking about

"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed



Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every woman and man present their views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.- Albert Einstein Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia



A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed



Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein



The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi



The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller



Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns



Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. -His Holiness The Dalai Lama



Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -



Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being



The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.