ETHZ: First Global Atlas of Marine Plankton
An international research team, coordinated by ETH Zurich and the University of East Anglia, and including numerous observatories and universities, for the first time produced a global atlas of marine plankton distribution in the oceans. Data include distribution, timing, height of the concentrations at different sea depth, and species diversity as well as biomass of plankton as collected at around 500,000 locations.
Little is know about oceans’ ecosystems and one of the aim of the project was to assess the extent of carbon absorption by plankton. The atlas will be very valuable to climate scientists, as new estimates may be included in simulation models for more accurate results.
Plankton are tiny organisms ranging from bacteria to large krill crustaceans. Phytoplankton carry out photosynthesis, thus fixing carbon dioxide and help regulating the global climate. Zooplankton on the other hand produce carbon dioxide through respiration, and are at the basis of the food chain, being the main nutrient of many a larger species, the best example of which are whales. An interesting outcome of the research was that in the deep sea, the biomass of zooplankton largely exceed that of phytoplankton.