Tiny Organisms like Planktons Control Ocean Nutrients, Finds Study

·2 min read

A recent study of Plankton and ocean surface has shed light on the role of tiny organisms in balancing the chemical elements of the ocean. The research led by scientists at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences says that activities below the ocean surface affect what happens above. Plankton, one of the most numerous and important organisms in the ocean is believed to balance the chemical elements inside it and affect many marine processes, like the food web and the global carbon cycle. As per the study published in the journal Communications Earth and Environment, the balance of chemical elements is largely dependent on activity in the subsurface ocean, from depths of over 300 feet.

The team led by Mike Lomas carried out their research on the samples collected from eight locations in oceans around the world and it has been found that the ratio of nitrogen and phosphorus introduced from the subsurface ocean controls the balance of those nutrients in the marine microorganisms which lead to the foundation of ocean health. Lomas performed the study directly on phytoplankton to develop a more accurate understanding of the ratios of these chemicals. Phytoplankton is one of the most critical marine organisms worldwide. Lomas has used a technique called flow cytometry, to get a more accurate understanding of the diverse ratios of elements in the ocean. This technique allows researchers to examine and sort hundreds to thousands of cells per second for this study. The elements present in these organisms’ cells reflect the available nutrients in their habitat.

Earlier, researchers used to use physical filters to sort out plankton from seawater, however, they also capture bacteria and tiny particles, leading to errors.

But the flow cytometry has enabled the researchers to isolate and examine only those cells that they were interested in. It also gave them an idea about what processes are controlling the elements. Lomas hopes that this technique might improve the understanding of nutrients and how oceans will respond to climate change.

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