Patricia Yager, a professor in the marine sciences department at the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, was quoted in Health Medicine Network about phytoplankton blooms expanding northward.
A new study based on satellite imagery of ocean color reveals phytoplankton spring blooms in the Arctic Ocean, which were previously nonexistent, are expanding northward at a rate of one degree of latitude per decade. The decline in Arctic sea ice over the past several decades has made way for areas of open water where phytoplankton can thrive, driving their expansion northward. Phytoplankton are microscopic organisms that live in water, consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis. They form the base of the marine food web, indirectly feeding everything from fishes to whales. The researchers are unsure what effect this expansion will have on the food web.
Yager said the earlier algal bloom growth observed in some areas could have considerable impacts if animals are not yet ready to graze on the phytoplankton.
“Such a mismatch in time could cause major changes to the Arctic food web, impacting not only the local animals and the people who live there, but also the global population of migrating animals who depend on these Arctic resources,” said Yager, who was not involved in the study. “What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic.”