More Evidence That Oceans And Terrestrial Ecosystems Absorb The Excess CO2

A US government team of scientists has discovered that the break up and melting of Antarctic shelf (fresh water) ice in the sea is causing CO2 to be removed from the atmosphere much faster than predicted. This is attributed to the growth of phytoplankton, a finding which corroborates an earlier report that polar carbon dioxide sinks have increased in recent years because of the growth of marine bryozoa (aquatic invertebrate animals), which are taking more excess CO2 out of circulation.

Other confirmatory data are the readings of the SeaWiFS instrument aboard the Seastar satellite, which has collected ocean data since 1997. Its instrument, which monitors the colour of reflected light to give scientists an idea of how well plants are photosynthesizing, indicates that the biosphere is booming at the moment.

“The US National Science Foundation (NSF) which funded the iceberg study, describes the results as having “global implications for climate research”.

“These new findings… confirm that icebergs contribute yet another, previously unsuspected, dimension of physical and biological complexity to polar ecosystems,” says Roberta Marinelli, director of the NSF’s Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Program.

A team of NSF-funded scientists examined the effects on an area of the Weddell Sea of a large (20 mile long) berg moving through, melting as it went and diluting the salty sea water – also adding key nutrients carried from the land. They found that after the iceberg had passed, levels of CO2 had plunged and much more chlorophyll was present. Chlorophyll is the substance in green plants which lets them suck in nasty CO2 and emit precious life-giving oxygen: in the Weddell Sea it was present in phytoplankton, tiny seagoing plantoids which are thought to account for half the carbon removed from the atmosphere globally.”

‘Antarctic ice breakup makes ocean absorb more CO2’

‘Antarctic Icebergs Play a Previously Unknown Role in Global Carbon Cycle, Climate’

‘Carbon sink at South Pole has grown recently, historical collections reveal’

‘The Earth’s biosphere is booming, data suggests that CO2 is the cause, part 2’

31 March, 2011


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