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Tropical plankton invade Arctic waters
Date:7/24/2012

detected farther north, into Alaskan waters.

In the arctic itself, earlier and faster melting of sea ice in the summer appears to be shifting plankton species assemblages toward smaller types. This could ultimately damage the food web that feeds much larger creatures, including seals, walruses and whales, said Jody Deming, a biologist at the University of Washington who studies arctic microbes. In an email, Deming said the new paper "presents an intriguing observation (warmer species making it into Arctic waters and surviving at least on the short term), but without more knowledge of how living radiolarians fit into the larger ecosystem, as both prey and predator, potential impacts on the whole ecosystem cannot be predicted reliably or at all really."

The big question, said Bjrklund, is what happens next. In the future, radiolaria may serve as useful indicators of how currents, and ecology, are changing. There are at least 60-some radiolaria species peculiar to the arctic; they may be quite different from the new arrivals, but too little is known about the life cycles of either group to say how either will react if they meet on a long-term basis, and how this might affect arctic ecosystems. Of the southerly radiolaria, Bjrklund said, "Will they adapt? Will they perish? Will they mix with the native fauna?" He said that he and his colleagues are anxious to receive new samples to find out.


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Contact: Kevin Krajick
kkrajick@ei.columbia.edu
212-854-9729
The Earth Institute at Columbia University
Source:Eurekalert  

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