Ocean's Ecosystem at Risk as Plankton Declines

Tuesday, 26 Nov 2013 07:36 PM

By Amy Woods

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Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say plankton levels are at their lowest in the North Atlantic region, signaling that ocean warming is affecting animal and plant biology, ThinkProgress reported Tuesday.

The decrease in blooms of the microscopic sea life also coincides with ocean temperatures that have been recorded as far north as Maine as the third-warmest in history, the scientists told The Associated Press.

"The first six months of 2013 can be characterized by new extremes in the physical and biological environment," NOAA scientist Kevin Friedland said.

Plankton serves as the bedrock of the ocean's ecosystem and is the beginning of the underwater food web. Its dropoff, as well as a decline in zooplankton, which feeds on plankton, poses a threat to reproduction cycles.

The scientists said rising ocean temperatures affect how nutrients at lower levels in the water circulate to upper levels, where they could be consumed by phytoplankton. They said that since 1950, almost half the phytoplankton population has been decimated.

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