How a warming world may alter functions of the oceans' organisms
Scientists identify characteristics of tiny sea life influenced by water temperature
New research takes scientists a step closer to identifying important characteristics of the communities of ocean organisms we rely on to aid the planet – as well as understanding how a warming climate could affect the functions of those communities.
The work is part of an international effort to reliably predict how the world’s oceans will respond to climate change by getting acquainted with the organisms that live there and do most of the work of absorbing half the human-generated carbon in the atmosphere and producing half of the oxygen we breathe.
The research shows that water temperature has a significant influence on how these floating creatures, called plankton, structure their communities and on how diverse these communities are. Specifically, in warmer water near the equator, most plankton communities are more diverse, and organisms living there are more likely than their peers in polar waters to change their gene activation, a sign they are likely better at adapting to their environment.