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Study Finds Plankton Are the Key to Carbon Sequestration

Source: The Ohio State University/Misti Crane - February 11, 2016 in Science/Tech

Study Finds Plankton Are the Key to Carbon Sequestration
Image: idua_japan/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

COLUMBUS – The ocean’s power to rein in carbon and protect the environment is vast but not well-understood.

But now, an international team of scientists has begun to illuminate how the ocean plucks carbon from the atmosphere, where it contributes to global warming, and shuttles it to the bottom of the sea.

The new study establishes the important role of plankton networks in removing carbon from the atmosphere and depositing it deep in the ocean. And it opens up opportunities for caring for the ocean in ways that encourage it to absorb more carbon.

The knowledge comes out of the unprecedented three-year Tara Oceans Expedition, in which a team of more than 200 experts took to the sea to catalog and better understand the unseen inhabitants of the ocean, from tiny animals to viruses and bacteria.

The latest in a series of studies from the project appears in today’s issue of the journal Nature and includes work by Matthew Sullivan, an assistant professor of microbiology at The Ohio State University, and Jennifer Brum and Simon Roux, postdoctoral researchers in Sullivan’s lab.

“We’re trying to understand, ‘Does carbon in the surface ocean sink to the deep ocean and, if so, how?’” Sullivan said.

“The reason that’s important is the oceans help mitigate our carbon footprint on this planet.”

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