A new study suggests vents in the seafloor may affect life near the ocean’s surface and the global carbon cycle more than previously thought. It’s the first to show how iron rising from beneath Earth’s crust stimulates massive phytoplankton blooms.
(From Stanford University/ By Josie Garthwaite) — Researchers at Stanford University say they have found an aquatic highway that lets nutrients from Earth’s belly sweep up to surface waters off the coast of Antarctica and stimulate explosive growth of microscopic ocean algae.
Their study, published June 5 in the journal Nature Communications, suggests that hydrothermal vents – openings in the seafloor that gush scorching hot streams of mineral-rich fluid – may affect life near the ocean’s surface and the global carbon cycle more than previously thought.
Mathieu Ardyna, a postdoctoral scholar and the study’s lead author, said the research provides the first observed evidence of iron from the Southern Ocean’s depths turning normally anemic surface waters into hotspots for phytoplankton – the tiny algae that sustain the marine food web, pull heat-trapping carbon dioxide out of the air and produce a huge amount of the oxygen we breathe. “Our study shows that iron from hydrothermal vents can well up, travel across hundreds of miles of open ocean and allow phytoplankton to thrive in some very unexpected places,” he said.
Kevin Arrigo, a professor of Earth system science and senior author of the paper, called the findings “important because they show how intimately linked the…
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