"Plankton... are the lynchpin on which life depends. They produce more than half the planet's oxygen, and are also responsible for a host of different, invisible and interlocked parts of the metabolism of the planet." - Mitchell, Alanna (2008), in Seasick: the hidden ecological crisis of the global ocean, Pier 9.
"Phytoplankton are important in the removal of carbon from surface waters to the deep ocean and the release of oxygen into the air. Many of these organisms are also key components of the food chain." - Australian Antarctic Division: Ocean Acidification and the Southern Ocean.
"...these tiniest ocean plants instantaneously respond to environmental change, well before we can detect impacts on fish and marine mammals." - Hallegraeff, Gustaaf M. (2006) in Plankton - A Critical Creation, University of Tasmania.
COMMITMENT: "...means the commitment of the Earth now to paths of change that will be unavoidable and unstoppable in the future. This delayed reaction is due to the inertia of the oceans, both thermal and chemical. Put another way, the greenhouse gasses we are producing now will take a couple of decades to produce the changes they are destined to make. And when they do... they will be for keeps as far as humanity is concerned. Climate change is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced." - JEN Veron, Science Alert, 2 March 2008, ESF LESC/EuroClimate Strategic Workshop: Impacts of Ocean Acidification.
Tasmanian sits in an area of significance to global ecosystems: "The Southern Ocean is a key area of exchange of carbon dioxide with the atmosphere - the so-called 'biological pump'. " - Scott, Fiona J. & Marchant, Harvey J. (Eds, 2005), Antarctic Marine Protists, Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra.
"About half of all carbon dioxide released by human activities is now found in the world's oceans and about a third of this has been taken up in the Southern Ocean. As carbon dioxide continues to dissolve in the ocean it increases ocean acidity, making it harder for some marine organisms to form shells and the organisms may be unable to function properly... These ecological changes in turn reduce the capacity of the ocean to absorb carbon dioxide. The Southern Ocean contains more carbon dioxide than other oceans because coller water absorbs more cabron dioxide than warmer water. Thus the ipacts of ocean acididfication will appear first in the Southern Ocean." - Australian Antarctic Division: Ocean Acidification and the Southern Ocean.
"The Southern Ocean is a biogeochemical 'harbinger' for the impacts of acidification that will spread throughout the global ocean." - Position Analysis: CO2 Emissions and Climate Change: Ocean Impacts and Adaptation Issues, Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre.
- Of concern is a recent finding of a drop in skeletal weight of 35% in a phytoplankton species of the Southern Ocean.
- Acidification rates of 350 parts per million (ppm) are considered a crucial and deleterious threshold: they are currently at 380 ppm, and estimates are that at 400 ppm, anticipated by winter 2030, acidity coupled with temperature rise may compromise Antarctic plant plankton blooms.
- New research suggests a 40% worldwide drop in phytoplankton numbers [Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, July 2010].
- In 2011, phytoplankton bloomed 50 days earlier than annually expected in the high Northern hemisphere - generating concern about an unravelling of the region's ecosystem and a potential crash of the food web.
Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre for up to date information on research, media, news, events and publications.
The Acid Test: Ocean acidification - connecting science, industry, policy and the public (short video as below):