Climate change is drastically affecting many organisms in our environment. One serious concern is that a bacteria called Trichodesmium, whose its job is to convert nitrogen gas into other materials that are essential for other forms of life in the ocean, is being depleted.
In a September 2015 issue of Nature Communications, scientists reported the findings of a study that tested what would happen to trichodesmium (also referred to as sea sawdust) when exposed to carbon dioxide levels predicted to exist 85 years in the future. They found that, at high levels of carbon dioxide concentration, the bacteria goes into reproductive overdrive, consuming nutrients already in limited supply, such as phosphorus and iron, which, in turn, deprives many other organisms of sufficient nutrients to survive. Not only will trichodesmium go into reproductive overdrive, but there is also the chance of it going extinct as well. The worst part though is that researchers found that, after being exposed to high concentrations of carbon dioxide, the effects on the bacteria cannot be reversed, even when carbon dioxide levels subsequently decrease. Either of these possibilities will radically alter the ocean and those that are a part of our global food chain. As one of the study’s authors noted, trichodesmium functions as “the fertilising agent of the open ocean” and changes that would impact its important role, or that would drive it to extinction, could be profound.
Source: Emma Howard, “Climate Change Will Alter Ocean Bacteria Crucial to Food Chain—Study.” The Guardian, September 2, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/02/climate-change-will-alter-ocean-micro-organisms-crucial-to-food-chain-say-scientists.
Student Researcher: Ally Spero (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Carmen Works (Sonoma State University)