Navigation Links
Mighty diatoms: Global climate feedback from microscopic algae
Date:3/17/2009

EAST LANSING, Mich. --- Tiny creatures at the bottom of the food chain called diatoms suck up nearly a quarter of the atmosphere's carbon dioxide, yet research by Michigan State University scientists suggests they could become less able to "sequester" that greenhouse gas as the climate warms. The microscopic algae are a major component of plankton living in puddles, lakes and oceans.

Zoology professor Elena Litchman, with MSU colleague Christopher Klausmeier and Kohei Yoshiyama of the University of Tokyo, explored how nutrient limitation affects the evolution of the size of diatoms in different environments. Their findings underscore potential consequences for aquatic food webs and climate shifts.

"They are globally important since they 'fix' a significant amount of carbon," Litchman explained of the single-cell diatoms. "When they die in the ocean, they sink to the bottom carrying the carbon from the atmosphere with them. They perform a tremendous service to the environment."

Carbon dioxide buildup, due to a significant extent to burning fossil fuels and deforestation, is identified as the leading cause of climate change. Carbon dioxide is at its highest level in at least 650,000 years and rising, according to The National Academies, and only half of the CO2 produced now can be absorbed by plant life.

Litchman analyzed data from lakes and oceans across the United States, Europe and Asia and found a striking difference between the size of diatoms in freshwater and in marine environments. In oceans, diatoms grow to be 10 times larger on average than in freshwater and have a wider range of sizes.

One factor that affects growth is nutrient availability, Litchman said. The research shows that limitations by nitrogen and phosphorus exert different selective pressures on cell size. The availability of these nutrients depends on the mixing of water from greater depths. Using a mathematical model, Litchman and her colleagues found that when those nutrients are constantly limited and mixing is shallow, smaller diatoms thrive.

But when nitrate comes and goes, as often happens in roiling oceans, diatoms evolve larger to store nutrients for lean times. Deep mixing also benefits large diatoms. Depending on how intermittent the nitrate supply is and how deep the ocean mixes, there can be a wide range of diatom sizes. Size matters for the creatures that eat them and also for carbon sequestration, as large diatoms are more likely to sink when they die.

Changing climate could alter the mixing depths and delivery of nutrients to diatoms and their subsequent sizes with a cascade of consequences, Litchman said.

"On a global scale, increased ocean temperatures could make the ocean more stratified," she explained. "This would cause less mixing and create stronger nutrient limitation and less frequent nutrient pulses. A change like this would select for different sizes of diatoms. If smaller sized diatoms dominate, then carbon sequestration becomes less efficient and there may be more CO2 remaining in the atmosphere, which would exacerbate global warming."


'/>"/>

Contact: Elena Litchman
litchman@msu.edu
269-671-2338
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Great whites mighty bite revealed
2. Climate change: Global risks, challenges and decisions
3. Fighting global warming offers growth and development opportunities
4. New renewables to power 40 per cent of global electricity demand by 2050
5. Crickets may predict human survivability during global warming
6. Scientists gather to protect global food security from return of devastating wheat fungus
7. Prominent climate researcher to speak at UH on global warming March 5
8. CO2 drop and global cooling caused Antarctic glacier to form
9. Polar research reveals new evidence of global environmental change
10. Lower increases in global temps could lead to greater impacts than previously thought, study finds
11. Live webcasting of global engineering summit
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Mighty diatoms: Global climate feedback from microscopic algae
(Date:3/28/2017)... , March 28, 2017 The ... Hardware (Camera, Monitors, Servers, Storage Devices), Software (Video Analytics, ... Region - Global Forecast to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, ... 2016 and is projected to reach USD 75.64 Billion ... and 2022. The base year considered for the study ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... 24, 2017 The Controller General of Immigration from ... Abdulla Algeen have received the prestigious international IAIR Award for the ... Continue Reading ... ... Controller Abdulla Algeen (small picture on the right) have received the IAIR ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... The report "Gesture Recognition and Touchless Sensing Market by Technology (Touch-based ... to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, the market is expected to be worth USD ... 2022. Continue Reading ... ... ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... and LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. , Oct. ... Cancer Research, London (ICR) and University ... SKY92, SkylineDx,s prognostic tool to risk-stratify patients with multiple myeloma ... MUK nine . The University of Leeds ... partly funded by Myeloma UK, and ICR will perform the ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... 2017 , ... San Diego-based team building and cooking events company, Lajollacooks4u, has ... The bold new look is part of a transformation to increase awareness, appeal to ... period. , It will also expand its service offering from its signature gourmet cooking ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... 10, 2017 International research firm Parks Associates announced ... at the TMA 2017 Annual Meeting , October 11 in ... residential home security market and how smart safety and security products impact ... Parks Associates: Smart Home ... "The residential security market has ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... DIEGO , Oct. 9, 2017  BioTech ... biological mechanism by which its ProCell stem cell ... critical limb ischemia.  The Company, demonstrated that treatment ... amount of limbs saved as compared to standard ... the molecule HGF resulted in reduction of therapeutic ...
Breaking Biology Technology: