Don’t Forget Plankton In Climate Change Models

phytoplankton

A new study from the University of Exeter, published in the journal Ecology Letters, found that phytoplankton — microscopic water-borne plants — can rapidly evolve tolerance to elevated water temperatures. Globally, phytoplankton absorb as much carbon dioxide as tropical rainforests and so understanding the way they respond to a warming climate is crucial.
Phytoplankton subjected to warmed water initially failed to thrive but it took only 45 days, or 100 generations, for them to evolve tolerance to temperatures expected by the end of the century. With their newfound tolerance came an increase in the efficiency in which they were able to convert carbon dioxide into new biomass.
The results show that evolutionary responses in phytoplankton to warming can be rapid and might offset some of the predicted declines in the ability of aquatic ecosystems to absorb carbon dioxide as the planet warms.

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