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Breakthrough made in assessing marine phytoplankton health
Date:5/28/2009

scence, literally the dim glow that these plants put off, will help complete the understanding of ocean health on a much broader and more frequent basis.

Some surprises are already in.

It was known, for instance, that parts of the equatorial Pacific Ocean, some regions around Antarctica and parts of the sub-Artic Pacific Ocean below Alaska were limited in production by the poor availability of iron. The newest data, however, show that parts of the northern Indian Ocean during the summer are also iron limited a phenomenon that had been suggested by some ocean and climate models, but never before confirmed.

"Iron is often brought to the oceans by dust coming off terrestrial regions, and is a necessary nutrient that often limits the potential for marine phytoplankton growth," said Allen Milligan, an OSU assistant professor of botany and co-author of this study, which is being published in the journal Biogeosciences.

"If forces such as global warming, circulation changes or the growth of deserts change the amount of dust entering the oceans, it will have an impact on marine productivity," Milligan said. "Now we'll be able to track those changes, some of which are seasonal and some of which may happen over much longer periods of time. And we'll also be able to better assess and improve the climate models that have to consider these phenomena."

Funding for this research was provided by the Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry Program of NASA, which announced the findings today in a news conference. Other collaborators were from the University of Maine/Orono, University of California/Santa Barbara, University of Southern Mississippi, the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Cornell University, and the University of California/Irvine.

In continued studies, researchers at OSU hope to reproduce the marine environment that these phytoplankton cells live in, learn more about their bas
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Contact: Michael Behrenfeld
behrenfm@science.oregonstate.edu
541-737-5289
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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