Study: Ocean planktons responsible for half of Earth’s oxygen production

On the basis of the findings of the most comprehensive study thus far on ocean planktons, researchers have asserted that half of the Earth’s oxygen production is attributable to these microorganisms.

In the Tara Ocean Project, the study researchers affirmed that the role of planktons is not only restricted just as whale food. Planktons are placed in the bottom of the marine food chain. They can be of different types, including small bacteria, viruses, plants, fish larvae, and animals.

For the project, the researchers remained aboard the schooner Tara for three and a half years and travelled 87,000 miles. During their search, the researchers were able to collect 5,000 plankton samples from 201 different sites.

From the data, the researchers conducted different things like the microbes’ distribution, tracing plankton interaction and also carried out genetic analysis. Chris Bowler, a research director at the National Center for Scientific Research, said that plankton has much more to do than just be the food source of whales.

Amongst all, extremely small planktons are very important for earth’s life support system. They perform photosynthesis process and provide oxygen. Plankton removes carbon dioxide from earth’s atmosphere and performs the process of photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide into organic carbon.

The research carried out the DNA sequencing and found around 40 million plankton genes, which were most undiscovered before. The researchers also came to know that majority of plankton organisms' interactions were parasitic relationships.

Jennifer Brum, a University of Arizona oceanographer, said that every mouthful of seawater has around 200 million viruses. More than 5,000 virus populations were discovered in upper parts of earth’s oceans. But 39 of them were new virus types.

The research can prove beneficial in many ways, including revealing about how food chains are organized to how climate change affects ecosystems.


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