Food source threatened by carbon dioxide

Dec 10, 2007

Carbon dioxide increasing in the atmosphere may affect the microbial life in the sea, which could have an impact on a major food source, warned Dr Ian Joint at a Science Media Centre press briefing today.

Dr Joint is sequencing the DNA of different ocean bacteria to find out how they will respond to an increase in carbon dioxide. “So far from one experiment we have sequenced 300 million bases of DNA, about one tenth the size of the human genome. We are analyzing this ‘ocean genome’ to see if changes might affect the productivity of the sea.”

Worldwide, fish from the sea provide nearly a fifth of the animal protein eaten by man. If microscopic plants that fish eat are affected by carbon dioxide, this may deplete a major food source.

“Bacteria still control the world” said Dr Joint from Plymouth Marine Laboratory. “They ensure that the planet is fertile and that toxic materials do not accumulate.” The carbon dioxide produced by humans is turning the oceans into weak acids. This century, the seas will be more acidic than they have been for 20 million years.

“There are many millions of different bacteria in the ocean. They control the cycling of oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and sulphur; microbes in the sea generate half of the oxygen produced globally every year.” So the atmosphere could also be affected by ocean acidification. “Bacteria made the earth suitable for animals by producing oxygen nearly 2 billion years ago. We want to find out if human activities will have a major impact on microbial life in the seas and if this is likely to be a problem for mankind in the future”

Source: Society for General Microbiology

Explore further: An uphill climb for mountain species?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sunlight, not microbes, key to CO2 in Arctic

Aug 21, 2014

The vast reservoir of carbon stored in Arctic permafrost is gradually being converted to carbon dioxide (CO2) after entering the freshwater system in a process thought to be controlled largely by microbial ...

What I learned from debating science with trolls

Aug 20, 2014

I often like to discuss science online and I'm also rather partial to topics that promote lively discussion, such as climate change, crime statistics and (perhaps surprisingly) the big bang. This inevitably ...

Recommended for you

An uphill climb for mountain species?

31 minutes ago

A recently published paper provides a history of scientific research on mountain ecosystems, looks at the issues threatening wildlife in these systems, and sets an agenda for biodiversity conservation throughout ...

Extinctions during human era worse than thought

2 hours ago

It's hard to comprehend how bad the current rate of species extinction around the world has become without knowing what it was before people came along. The newest estimate is that the pre-human rate was ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

mysticfree
not rated yet Dec 10, 2007
"...may affect..." "...could have..." "...from one experiment..." "...are analyzing..." Is it too much to ask for stories with definite conclusions and analysis? Anyone can write doom-and-gloom with "maybe's", "what-ifs", and "possibly". I 'may' win the lottery, which 'could have' a bad effect on my life. I'm analyzing the results from one ticket now.