Scientists: Photosynthesis In Oceans Levels Out CO2 Effect

April 28, 2008 at 12:06 pm Leave a comment

UK researchers who studied the calcification process of phytoplankton report new findings; the creation of chalk at deep sea level could double by the end of this century, but its net contribution to CO2 levels will hardly be noticeable.

The findings, published by an international team of scientists in Science recently, contradict most studies to date on oceanic carbon dioxide emissions. But the scientists say they’ve obtained evidence that increased carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere actually causes increased activity of microscopic ocean plants’ photosynthesis and their production of chalk. The two processes level each other out, resulting in a neutral CO2 net effect.

The scientific consensus until now has been that carbon dioxide make the oceans more acidic which is negative for all organisms that produce calcium carbonate such as corals and coccolithophores (a group of phytoplankton producing chalk). But the scientists writing the Science article assert that they observed both in their lab and in the deep level ocean that the calcification of coccolithophores increases strongly as carbon dioxide (CO2) levels rise.

“But because these organisms photosynthesize they also consume CO2. It is the balance between calcification – which produces carbon dioxide – and the consumption of CO2 by photosynthesis that will determine whether coccolithophores act as a “sink” (absorbing CO2) or as a source of CO2 to the atmosphere”, the scientists assert.

In other words; the rise in CO2 produced by increased calcification is mitigated by its very removal. How? Increased photosynthesis, which results in a net effect that is unlikely to either contribute greatly or significantly reduce the rise in atmospheric CO2.

The upshot of all this is neither positive nor negative for actual CO2 production, but might drastically overturn the ecosystems at deep sea level.

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Entry filed under: Green News.

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