Seabirds’ Significance

Complex Interactions Help Cool the Planet




Top predator species of the Southern Ocean, far-ranging seabirds, are tied to the health of the ecosystem and to global climate regulation through a mutual relationship with phytoplankton, according to a study from the University of California-Davis, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

When phytoplankton are eaten by grazing crustaceans called krill, they release a chemical signal that attracts krill-eating birds. The chemical signal, dimethyl sulfide (DMS), forms sulfur compounds in the atmosphere that also promote cloud formation and help cool the planet.

Seabirds consuming the krill then fertilize the phytoplankton with iron, which is scarce in oceans. “The data is really striking,” says Gabrielle Nevitt, Ph.D., a professor of neurobiology, physiology and behavior at the university, who co-authored the paper. “This suggests that top marine predators are important in climate regulation, although they are mostly left out of climate models. More attention should be focused on how ecological systems impact climate. Studying DMS as a signal molecule makes the connection.”


Source: Environmental News Network (enn.com)

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

‘Sink’ Setback

Logging, drought and wildfires may be turning forests in Africa, Asia and Latin America into carbon emitters rather than absorbers.

Clear Gain

Scientists have developed a transparent, luminescent solar concentrator that looks like clear glass that could potentially supply two-fifths of U.S. energy needs.

Top Polluters

New research shows that a 100 fossil-fuel producers globally are responsible for 71 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions during the last 30 years.

Waxworm Wonders

Bacteria found in waxworms can digest plastic in mere weeks or months, far outperforming other plastic decomposition processes requiring 10 to 1,000 years.

Wind Harvest

The first floating wind farm in the UK, Hywind in Scotland, will have a 30-megawatt capacity to provide clean energy to 20,000 homes.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags