Plant life in the world’s oceans has become less productive since the early 1980s, absorbing less carbon, which may in turn impact the Earth’s carbon cycle, according to a study that combines NASA satellite data with NOAA surface observations of marine plants.
“This research shows ocean primary productivity is declining, and it may be a result of climate changes such as increased temperatures and decreased iron deposition into parts of the oceans. This has major implications for the global carbon cycle,” NASA Scientist Watson Gregg said. Iron from trans-continental dust clouds is an important nutrient for phytoplankton, and when lacking can keep populations from growing.” The authors found nearly 70 percent of the Net Primary Productivity/Plankton growth (NPP) global decline per decade occurred in the high latitudes (above 30 degrees). In the North Pacific and North Atlantic basins, phytoplankton bloom rapidly in high concentrations in spring, leading to shorter, more intense life-cycles. In these areas, plankton quickly dies and can sink to the ocean floor, creating a potential pathway of carbon from the atmosphere into the deep ocean.
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