facebook
twitter
rss
account
search
search
 

New trigger for plankton 'blooms' found

July 6, 2012 at 3:41 PM   |   Comments

WOODS HOLE, Mass., July 6 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they've discovered a new trigger for springtime blooms of plankton in the North Atlantic -- large whirlpools or eddies in the ocean.

In what's termed the North Atlantic Bloom, an immense number of microscopic phytoplankton burst into color, first "greening" then "whitening" the sea as one species follows another.

Longer hours of sunlight were assumed behind the annual blooms, but oceanographers report they've studied eddies swirling across the surface of the ocean that sustain phytoplankton in shallower waters where sunlight fuels their growth by keeping them from being pushed downward by the ocean's rough surface.

"Our results show that the bloom starts through eddies, even before the sun begins to warm the ocean," said Amala Mahadevan, an oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and lead author of the study published in Science.

The finding helps explain the timing of the spring and summer bloom known to mariners and fishers for centuries and clearly visible in satellite images, researchers said.

It also accounts for the patchy appearance of the blooms, shaped by the eddies responsible for their formation, they said.

The scientists focused on phytoplankton known as diatoms.

"When conditions are right, diatom blooms spread across hundreds of miles of ocean," researcher Craig Lee of the University of Washington said, "bringing life-sustaining food to sometimes barren waters."

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Most Popular
1
Earth's magnetic field may soon flip, according to new data Earth's magnetic field may soon flip, according to new data
2
Wisconsin shuts down three wolf hunting zones, two remain open Wisconsin shuts down three wolf hunting zones, two remain open
3
Deforestation in the Amazon has increased 190 percent, satellites show Deforestation in the Amazon has increased 190 percent, satellites show
4
Japanese man who 3D printed guns sentenced to two years in prison Japanese man who 3D printed guns sentenced to two years in prison
5
Soda drinkers may be slowly killing themselves Soda drinkers may be slowly killing themselves
Trending News
Around the Web
x
Feedback