Freshwater plankton at risk

201010231841.jpg by eelke dekker

Warming threat to life in rivers
[Via BBC News]

Future warming could have “profound implications” for the stability of freshwater ecosystems, a study warns.

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I’ve mainly been focussed on the effect of temperature and acidification in the salt water environment. Here we have some data on what happens in warming fresh water systems.

What seems to happen is that the ‘plant’ plankton, which produce while soaking up carbon dioxide are replaced by ‘animal’ plankton which do the opposite. They are smaller also, representing a large decrease in biomass needed for other life to eat.

“An inordinate amount of the primary productivity and carbon draw-down in ocean and freshwater ecosystems are carried out by microscopic planktonic organisms.”

So, less of the plankton that removes carbon and less food for other life to eat.

Now, this is in a lab and in a controlled environment. But it does indicate that there will be huge changes in the ecosystems of freshwater plankton, with a strong possibility of very devastating effects on the carbon cycle in the future.