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Climate change impacts on the oceanic food chain

By Tim Sandle     Jul 16, 2013 in Environment
Climate change appears to be affecting the starting point of the ocean’s food chain. Changing climate is affecting the types of microscopic organisms found in the seas, with potential consequences for marine life and human health.
Scientists have theorized, based on collected data, that the ocean has absorbed 80 percent of the heat added to the Earth’s system by climate change. In particular, oceans are especially vulnerable to the adverse impacts from human emissions of greenhouse gases. Climate change has caused a number of changes, ranging from migration of species, to changes to the numbers of different species. One of the influencing factors is changes to the food chain. Scientists now see that these changes are triggered by changes at the very start of the pecking order.
New research suggests that carbon dioxide has the potential to control the biodiversity of keystone microscopic organisms in the ocean’s ecology. This has ramifications for changes in ocean food chains.
In particular, climate change has led to an increase in blue-green algae. These are types of bacteria which ‘fix’ nitrogen by converting inert (unusable) nitrogen gas from the air into a reactive form. For the study, scientists studied a species called Trichodesmium, which is visible, in clumps, to the naked eye. It is sometimes referred to as sea sawdust.
An increase in blue-green algae not only affects the food balance, it can also pose health risks. When some blooms occur in water bodies, exposure to the blue-green algae and their toxins can pose risks to humans, pets, livestock and wildlife. Exposure may occur by ingestion, dermal contact, and aspiration or inhalation. Furthermore, exposure to blue-green algae can cause rashes, skin and eye irritation, allergic reactions, gastrointestinal upset, and other effects. At high levels, exposure can result in serious illness or death.
The findings of the study have appeared in the journal Nature Geoscience.
More about Climate change, Global warming, Oceans, Food chain, Algae
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