Early Plankton Blooming May Starve Ocean Creatures

Blossoming disrupted by warming water
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 21, 2008 6:23 AM CST
Microscopic phytoplankton is the nutrient at the base of the food web on which all other marine life depends.   (©Bruno C. Vellutini)
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(Newser) – A vast and colorful explosion of life in the Arctic Sea—the sudden, unprecedented blossoming of phytoplankton prompted by warming waters—could spell death for untold numbers of creatures, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Phytoplankton, a microscopic but vital part of the food chain, is blooming—and swiftly dying—at the wrong time of year, scientists warn, meaning many migratory animals heading for the Arctic to feed will likely starve.

Scientists tracking changes in the Arctic say the earlier, more profuse appearance—and quicker disappearance, as chemical nutrients in the water run out—is certain to wreak havoc with marine ecosystems, and could "precipitate profound ecological shifts," said one of the researchers, whose work is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.