Tiny zooplankton animals, each no bigger than a grain of rice, may be playing a huge part in regulating climate change, research involving the University of Strathclyde has found.
(From Science Daily) — The zooplankton group, known as copepods, build up carbon-rich lipids as a nutritional reserve during late summer whilst they are in the surface waters of the ocean. Then, they use these reserves to survive their winter hibernation period which they spend at around one mile down in the deep ocean, out of contact with the atmosphere.
This means that the CO2 released by the hibernating copepods as they use up their lipid reserves does not find its way back into the atmosphere but is instead stored in the depths, where it can remain for thousands of years. The team which undertook the research have called this process the ‘copepod lipid pump’.
The research showed that one copepod species alone, Calanus finmarchicus, carries between one million and three million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere into the depths of the North Atlantic Ocean each year.
Professor Michael Heath, of Strathclyde’s Department of Mathematics & Statistics, was a partner in the research. He said: “The deep over-wintering of these copepods has been known about for a while but this is the first time that their role in carbon storage has been measured. The results could double the estimates of how much carbon dioxide is being absorbed by the North Atlantic Ocean.
Read the full article here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150924083906.htm