Excess carbon dioxide being added to the atmosphere by society is disrupting plants at the base of the marine food chain, according to a new university study published in the March 14 of the scientific journal Nature.
The team of scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and Adam Kustka of Rutgers University-Newark, demonstrated in their research that increased carbon dioxide in oceans interfere with necessary iron intake in phytoplankton, microscopic plants that support ocean food chains and fisheries and help to moderate carbon dioxide levels. Ocean acidification is poised to decrease the concentration of sea surface carbonate ions by 50 percent by the year 2100.
Excess atmospheric carbon dioxide increases the acidity of oceans, slowing phytoplankton growth rates and reducing the biological drawdown of carbon dioxide, ultimately allowing higher amounts of carbon dioxide to accumulate in the atmosphere, said Jeff McQuaid lead author of the study.
“Marine scientists have spent decades investigating how phytoplankton are able to grab such low concentrations of iron from seawater and internalize it,” Kustka said. “Understanding the mechanism of iron uptake is critical to develop meaningful predictions on how phytoplankton may respond to future ocean conditions, but this understanding has been elusive/
The international research team for this project also included scientists from the Czech Republic. Their work was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Department of Energy.