An unseen war raging among the ocean’s tiniest organisms has significant implications for understanding the ocean’s role in climate change, according to a new study.
David Needham and Jed Fuhrman from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences sampled water off the coast of Southern California over the course of five months, almost every day shortly after an algal bloom occurred, and found that the cloud of microorganisms is anything but uniform. Instead, the researchers found traces of a constant battle among dozens of species, with the fortunes of war favoring different organisms on a daily basis.
Not only do the tiny organisms, known as phytoplankton, make up the base of the food chain in the ocean, they also are the planet’s main scrubbers of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
“We witnessed a daily boom and bust among the phytoplankton species,” said Fuhrman, senior author of a study that was published in Nature Microbiology on Feb. 29.