You may not know it, but you would not be alive today without microscopic ocean creatures called phytoplankton. These organisms produce an astonishing 60 percent of all of the Earth’s oxygen, and occupy the crucial bottom rung of our world’s food chain. The survival of almost all life on this planet depends on healthy phytoplankton.
Now a new study funded by the National Science Foundation has found that the world’s phytoplankton may be in serious jeopardy due to climate change. A team of scientists who spent 26 days studying the phytoplankton along the West Coast found that highly acidic ocean waters caused by increased carbon dioxide emissions are producing elevated levels of toxicity in these organisms. Toxic phytoplankton are in turn harming shellfish and other marine animals which feed on it.
Meanwhile, dozens of country representatives gathered at the US State Department this week for a two day conference on oceans. President Obama announced at the ‘Our Ocean’ Conference that he will be creating the world’s largest ocean preserve in the Pacific Ocean to prevent over-fishing, oil drilling and rising levels of acidification.
GUEST: William Cochlan is a Senior Research Scientist at the Romberg Tiburon Center at San Francisco State University and one of the lead researchers in the phytoplankton study
Click here to read an article about Cochlan’s work.