Diatom algae populations tell a story about climate change in Greenland (w/ Video)

Nov 05, 2013 by Miles O'brien
Diatom algae populations tell a story about climate change in Greenland (w/ Video)
Whirlpools, or eddies, swirl across the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean sustaining phytoplankton in the ocean's shallower waters. There, the phytoplankton can get plenty of sunlight to fuel their growth, keeping them from being pushed downward by the ocean's rough surface. The result is a burst of spring and summer color atop the ocean's waters. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

Researchers try to determine how much this "canary in a coal mine" can say about the impact of a warming climate on the Arctic region.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), ecologist Jasmine Saros and her team from the University of Maine are plying the lake waters of southwestern Greenland, gathering samples of "diatoms" to study how is affecting this Arctic ecosystem. Diatoms are a type of algae that responds rapidly to environmental change and leaves a fossil in lake sediments.

Striking changes in communities of diatoms have occurred over the last 150 years. Diatom species generally associated with warmer conditions are increasing at unprecedented rates in the sediment record.

However, changes in assemblages in from west Greenland are different from those in the rest of the Arctic in that they are already rich in these 'warmer' water diatoms throughout the Holocene (the last 11,700 years of geologic time). This difference has raised questions about what diatoms can tell us about in the Arctic, and suggests the need to clarify the ecological traits of diatoms in order to advance our understanding of drivers of change.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Credit: NSF

Recent research in alpine regions reveals that key diatom species that are used as indicators of 20th century warming in both arctic and alpine lakes respond specifically to both climate-induced changes in energy (mixing depths) and mass inputs (nutrients) to lake ecosystems. This suggests that spatially- and temporally-variable interactions between climate-induced changes in the physical and chemical structure of lakes may drive diatom community changes, but this is currently untested in lakes.

This research couples comparative lake sampling with both small- and large-scale experiments to provide key ecological information that will enable interpretation of climate-induced ecological changes from several existing diatom records from southwest Greenland. The objective of this project is to determine the effects of climate-driven changes in nutrients and water column stability on the relative abundances of key diatom species, and to apply that information to existing diatom records to determine climate-induced changes in these lake ecosystems.

Explore further: Study shows volcanic eruptions beneath bodies of water can cause widespread dispersal of diatoms

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Climate Change Alters Base of Tahoe Food Web

Sep 29, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- UC Davis researchers at Lake Tahoe this week published the first evidence that climate change alters the makeup of tiny plant communities called algae, which are the very foundation of the ...

Recommended for you

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

Apr 18, 2014

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

mememine69
1 / 5 (5) Nov 05, 2013
Former Climate Blame Believers are Better Planet Lovers
Please respect the fact that reason we deniers do not believe in climate change is because for 30 years the scientists have never agreed on anything beyond "could be" a climate crisis so how can you believers say it WILL be when science has not. It's obvious you believers wanted this misery to have been real. We agree to disagree that "maybe" isn't good enough to condemn our own children to the ultimate disaster. Deal?
But YOU can't say it WILL until science does!
And get up to date:
*Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by trustworthy politicians.*
*Canada killed Y2Kyoto with a freely elected climate change denying prime minister and nobody cared, especially the millions of scientists warning us of unstoppable warming (a comet hit).*
goracle
5 / 5 (1) Dec 17, 2013
Same old post again and again and again with minor variations. Somebody needs to get a life, and the ability to think critically.

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.

Low tolerance for pain? The reason may be in your genes

Researchers may have identified key genes linked to why some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual ...