Amsterdam scientists in Nature: Global warming could destabilize plankton

Global warming of the surface layers of the oceans reduces the upward transport of nutrients. This generates chaos among the plankton, according to researchers of the University of Amsterdam (UvA), the Centrum voor Wiskunde en Informatica (CWI), and the University of Hawaii (USA). In Nature of 19 January 2006 they present advanced computer simulations, which predict that plankton growth will show strong fluctuations when the supply of nutrients is reduced. This prediction was rather unexpected: It contradicts the idea that deep plankton would represent a very stable system.

Global warming of the surface layers of the oceans reduces the upward transport of nutrients. This generates chaos among the plankton, according to researchers of the University of Amsterdam (UvA), the Centrum voor Wiskunde en Informatica (CWI), and the University of Hawaii (USA). In Nature of 19 January 2006 they present advanced computer simulations, which predict that plankton growth will show strong fluctuations when the supply of nutrients is reduced. This prediction was rather unexpected: It contradicts the idea that deep plankton would represent a very stable system. Data from long-term time series of plankton in the subtropical Pacific Ocean showed indeed complex fluctuations. Fluctuations of plankton - the basis of many food chains - may have a negative impact on the production of the oceans and on uptake of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the oceans.

The publication in Nature is entitled: 'Reduced mixing generates oscillations and chaos in the oceanic deep chlorophyll maximum', by Jef Huisman (Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, UvA), Nga Pham Thi and Ben Sommeijer (CWI) and David Karl (University of Hawaii, USA). The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), the Dutch BSIK/BRICKS project, the American National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation supported the investigations.

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( January 19, 2006 )